The following paper is a “Q & A interview” conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal as a method to impart the combined technological, business and personal experience of a prominent, robotic industry engineer-turned successful business leader, regarding the commercialization and challenges of bringing technological inventions to market while overseeing a company. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
The interviewee is Dr Steve Cousins, a seasoned executive, entrepreneur and innovator with a strong track record for managing research and development organizations and realizing a significant return on investment. Dr Cousins has dedicated the past near-decade of his life to the mission of building and deploying personal and service robotic technology to assist people. In this interview, Dr Cousins discusses some of the technical and business insights that have led to his most recent robotic advancements as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Savioke, a company that is creating autonomous robot helpers for the services industry.
Dr Cousins received his BS and MS degrees in computer science from Washington University, and holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University. Dr Cousins managed the Advanced Systems Development Laboratory at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and then went on to lead the IBM Almaden Research Center, one of the top human–computer interaction research groups in the world, as the Senior Manager of the User-Focused Systems Research Group. While at IBM, Dr Cousins earned a micro-MBA.
Dr Cousins is spearheading a new business model for robotics, Robots as a Service (RaaS), with Savioke’s flagship mobile robot, Relay. Based on the information technology industry service trend of improving customer experiences, Savioke is successfully applying RaaS to the hospitality industry with about 10 Relays at half a dozen US major hotels. Before founding Savioke, Dr Cousins was the President and CEO of Willow Garage, where he oversaw the creation of the robot operating system (ROS), the PR2 robot and the open-source TurtleBot. In the last three years of his tenure at Willow Garage, Dr Cousins spun off eight successful companies: Suitable Technologies (maker of the Beam remote presence system); Industrial Perception, Inc. (acquired by Google in 2013); Redwood Robotics (acquired by Google in 2013); HiDOF (ROS and robotics consulting); Unbounded Robotics; The Open Source Robotics Foundation; The OpenCV Foundation; and The Open Perception Foundation. Dr Cousins is an active participant in the Robots for Humanity project.
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