STARTUP: AI for collaborative robots

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German start-ups that have devoted themselves to artificial intelligence are rare. While there is no lack of knowledge, there does appear to be a lack of investors who are willing to take risks. But a new company in Berlin has still managed to find some in Munich.

According to McKinsey, artificial intelligence is supposed to make our society ten times faster and three thousand times stronger than the industrial revolution did. While you could scrutinize the numbers, there is no doubt about the extent of its impact. That is why companies around the world and high-tech corporations are investing billions in this sector. And AI start-ups are at the top of their shopping lists. International business is booming, especially in the United States. The scene here in Germany is more straightforward. From an academic point of view, there is certainly no need to hide when it comes to AI, but there does appear to be a shortage of sufficient risk capital. Most would rather waste their money on yet another e-commerce company.

But a couple of “daredevils” like Munich business angel and Wellington partner Christian Reitberger really do exist. He was extensively involved in the first round of seed financing worth more than 800,000 euros a year ago. The eight-member team at micropsi industries GmbH, which was founded in 2014, used those funds to continue developing a machine-learning product that recognizes and analyzes patterns in unstructured (live) data. It will also make AI methods available to SMEs. Against the backdrop of “Industry 4.0”, demand and potential are enormous. The results can be used for optimization projects, particularly in light of increased networking and the fact that machines are being equipped with sensors.

Friendly collaborative robots

At the same time, micropsi industries is working on software that makes robots capable of learning and therefore more capable of interacting with humans. After all, even though “robotic colleagues” have been making headlines in the media for years, man and machine have pretty much gone their separate ways until now.

As a rule, industrial robots are still programmed using certain commands for predefined movements. This method is no longer sufficient for so-called cobots (collaborative robots). They have to process up to 40 commands per second to be able to really assist people. That is too much for conventional programming technology. Which is where the artificial intelligence software from micropsi industries comes in. It is already working with a major carmaker to come up with possible ways to use the technology in manufacturing next year.

Now an additional two million euros in seed financing has been made available by various investors, this time under the lead of Vito Ventures in Munich. Which is not necessarily self-evident, because while an industrialize nation such as Germany has enormous potential, it takes a lot of time and capital to leverage it.

But Ronnie Vuine, the founder of micropsi industries, has loftier aspirations. He wants to use artificial intelligence to create robot personalities someday—robots with feelings. But that may take a while, and whether or not capital will be available remains questionable, at least for now. Although maybe in Munich.



Collaborative robots (Image: ABB).

Artificial intelligence will make collaborative robots more capable of interaction. (Image: ABB).