Blue Frog Robotics, a social robotics company founded in 2014 in Paris, has opened a subsidiary in the United States called Blue Frog Robotics Inc. Located in MassRobotics‘ office in Boston, the new subsidiary will manage sales and operations of Buddy the social robot for the US, as well as global branding, partnerships and business development.
This is an interesting development for Blue Frog Robotics. Just over two months ago, Rodolph Hasselvander, co-founder and CEO of Blue Frog Robotics, reached out to The Robot Report and other sources asking for help finding investors. In a 2015 crowdfunding campaign, the company raised $659,700 to help produce Buddy. However, the crowdfunding campaign backers have yet to receive their orders.
The company now says Buddy will ship in April 2020. Backers have shared their frustrations with production delays, which to its credit, Blue Frog addressed head on. It’ll be interesting to see how backers react to the news of this new wholly-owned subsidiary.
According to Blue Frog Robotics, Buddy can work with smart-home systems, educate and entertain children, and assist the elderly. The wheeled robot can also help connect families, serve as a security guard, and take photos and share them. In addition, the “emotional robot” could interact naturally with users through speech and serve as a butler. Blue Frog Robotics also opened the software developer’s kit (SDK) to encourage others to build applications for the robot. Slots were provided for arms, but the robot did not come with manipulators.
“Establishing ourselves in Boston is an exciting time for Buddy our emotional robot,” said Hasselvander, who was previously executive director of Centre de Robotique Intégrée d’Ile de France (CRIIF), an engineering consultancy that develops customized robotic systems for military, industrial, and services clients. “Supported by Boston robotics ecosystem, and some of the best consultants and technical minds in the United States, Buddy has so much to offer.
Boston, of course, was also the home of Jibo, a social robotics company that shut down after raising nearly $73 million. Jibo was ultimately plagued by production delays, a high price and cheaper, more skilled competitors such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and other smart speakers.
As we have come to know all too well, creating a sustainable business based off social robots for the home is, essentially, impossible at the moment. Anki is the best example of how difficult this business can be. Founded in 2010, Anki shut down after raising $200 million, selling 3.5 million units worldwide since it was founded in 2010, and brining in nearly $100 million in revenue in 2017. Anki co-founder Boris Sofman is now leading Waymo’s autonomous trucking efforts.
Blue Frog Robotics Inc. faces some tough challenges, but we wish them nothing but the best. Boston is the leading robotics hub on the planet, and working with MassRobotics is a great decision. Hopefully this is a fresh start for the social robotics company and its backers.