It’s still Pi Day at least in Boulder for a few more hours. And, well, robots.
Happy Pi Day everyone. If you love dogs, or robots, or dogs and robots, you’ll love the video below.
Two companies we are investors in – Rover and Sphero – have teamed up on Pi Day. Sphero is in the last week of their Kickstarter campaign for their new robot named RVR (pronounced “rover”) and, well, it loves dogs. There’s also a new Pi Day Tier on the Kickstarter that’s available for 24 hours and limited to 314 people.
While the RVR belly rubbing and behind-the-ear scratching APIs need some work, you can also get a $40 gift certificate from Rover to have a human do this.
Don’t forget to eat some pie today. What would Pi day be without pie?
A central theme of science fiction over the past 20 years has been the dystopian future of humans, laying on couches, connected to machines that feed them and process their waste, while they interact with a virtual world. Advanced versions of this technology let you move around or relax in a comfortable creche.
Today we call it VR. I wish the abbreviation, which seems so harmless, had never taken hold as the phrase “virtual reality” helps remind us, just a tiny bit, of what we are talking about.
Ever since Jaron Lanier popularized the phrase virtual reality when I was in college, I’ve struggled with it. When my friend Warren Katz introduced me to the idea of a head mounted display in the late 1980s, I was simultaneously thrilled and disturbed. When Lenny Nero figured out what happened to Iris, I simply was disturbed. Yet, when John Underkoffler created the Minority Report user interface to the precogs in the early 2000s, I was enthralled. When Amazon decided to pull out of NYC in 2019, I wasn’t surprised.
Wait, that last sentence was for a different blog post. Just checking to make sure you are still here and paying attention.
I don’t believe humans want to strap a headset on, block out all the stimuli they are getting, lay down in a creche, attach themselves to biosensors that handle their meat puppet, and immerse themselves in a virtual reality, without being able to simultaneously interact with the world around them
There’s no question that VR has an enormous potential market in online gaming. This isn’t anything new – the online gaming industry and the porn industry are two of the most aggressive adopters of new technologies. It’s not difficult to imagine going from your couch to your creche. It would be easier to play esports if you didn’t have to eat or go to the bathroom.
But, beyond that, I don’t buy it. Outside of video games and esports, my bet is on holograms and augmented reality. See you in the future.
As part of the Sphero RVR Kickstarter campaign, Amy and I have decided to give away up to 200 RVRs as part of a new tier called the 2 RVRs for you + 1 for a Teacher tier.
If you buy this tier, you get two RVRs. Then, you get to designate a teacher – any teacher – who you’d like to give a third RVR to. Our foundation (the Anchor Point Foundation) will be underwriting this.
As a special bonus, I’ll do an hour long AMA on Kickstarter Live for everyone who participates in this tier. Like many of the AMAs I do, I’m hopeful the conversation will be wide ranging, covering whatever anyone on the AMA wants to explore.
So, if you have a teacher in your world who you love and want to give a special gift, go sign up for the Sphero 2 RVRs for you + 1 for a Teacher tier on Kickstarter.
Among other things, I’m especially proud of Ayah Bdeir’s leadership on this issue over the years. There are two great interview segments with her that discuss (1) To increase girls in tech, focus on ages 8-12 and (2) The importance of teaching girls to fail.
Day 1 of Sphero’s RVR pre-order campaign is off to a great start (> 1000 backers, > $250,000 in the first 24 hours.) It’s Day 2, but for some people in the tech world it’s always Day 1, so if you missed RVR, go take a look and jump in on the pre-order fun.
I was on vacation during valentines day so I’m a little late. But, robot valentines day transcends time, especially since I love robots.
Over the last eight years, Sphero has made a bunch of different robots. We’ve been discussing the “every-programmer” robot for a while, which is both hardware and software hackable. Watching RVR come together from the inside over the past year has been pretty awesome.
If you are into robots, programming, STEM, or the future, go visit Kickstarter and pre-order RVR today.
Last month, Amy and I matched all of the Colorado first time DonorsChoose.org projects. So far, 103 projects have been fully funded, with a total of $25,722 donated. We still have plenty of matching dollars out there, so we’ll continue to run this match for a while.
In the meantime, I started talking to my friends at Sphero about doing something similar for all the DonorsChoose.org projects that have a Sphero as part of them. They got excited about it and have announced a $110,000 gift to Donorschoose.org to match anyone who donates to any of the 200+ teachers on Donorschoose.org who have Sphero products included in their projects.
Amy and I, through our Anchor Point Foundation, joined Silicon Valley Bank, Needham & Company, Flex Logistics, Nasco, and my partners at Foundry Group, in providing the funding for the match. SVB, Needham, Flex, and Nasco are Sphero business partners and I deeply appreciate their support of Sphero, DonorsChoose.org, and all of the teachers we are helping fund.
If you want to support a teacher who has a Sphero-related project for their classroom, jump in now. And, if you are a teacher who wants to do something around Sphero’s STEM-related robots and software, including Sphero BOLT, Sphero Mini, and the newly-released Sphero Specdrums, join DonorsChoose.org and put up a project today! Finally, if you are a Sphero business partner and want to participate in this, email me and I’ll get you in the mix.
This match will continue until the dollars are used up. Amy and I are incredibly proud of our friends at Sphero, along with their partners SVB, Needham, Flex, and Nasco, as well as my own partners at Foundry Group, for helping teachers get more STEM-related activities in their classroom through DonorsChoose.org.
I’ve watched a pretty remarkable thing unfold in the past year that culminated yesterday in the launch of a new product from Adero. For a one minute overview, watch the video below. For a longer overview, read the Hello from Adero post from Nate Kelly, the CEO.
Adero is shipping now. As a reader of my blog, you can get 20% off a purchase using the code FOUNDRY20. I’ve been using the production product for 30 days and it’s dynamite.
Adero is what has emerged from our investment in TrackR and is a very long story for another blog post. After a very difficult Q4 last year, we reset a number of things on the business, including the leadership team. Nate Kelly, who had been hired as COO, took over as CEO and in February decided to effectively start from scratch with the hardware, software, and long-term product vision.
Nate and the team have – in nine months – designed, built, and shipped an extremely impressive next-generation product. The amount done in that period of time has been mind-blowing to me after having worked with many hardware-related companies. It’s not just the creation of the product, but the quality of the total product – hardware, software, brand promise, and organization to support it – that is impressive.
I’m really excited about the next phase of this company. We’ve had many successes emerge from companies that stalled or had major problems. Every successful company of ours has had at least one near-death experience. The last year has been extremely intense for this company, and I have enormous respect for the effort of every person there.
Help me on the next journey of Adero by becoming a customer and giving me feedback – of any type – to pass on to the team. They are a learning and building machine that is as impressive as any that I’ve gotten the pleasure to work with over the years.
Watch the following one minute video and ponder whether or not you were that kid (or have one of those kids.)
I was totally that kid. But, most of it was in my mind, which I why I ended up being a software version of that kid. About the only machine I played with was my Apple ][ because it was a computer. I hated the lawnmower, never worked on cars, was afraid of the Cuisinart we had (and all the sharp blades), ignored power tools, and stayed away from anything that plugged into an electrical socket on the wall.
Ironically, I have excellent hand-eye coordination which I think came from three things: (1) playing video games, (2) playing tennis, and (3) having crummy eyesight.
I still have crummy eyesight. Even though my glasses correct most of it, I know that my brain works extra hard to compensate for it. So, as a kid, even though I played a lot of sports, I often played them without my glasses on which made some things worse but forced me to work even harder to deal with hand-eye coordination.
I didn’t realize until I was an adult that I have a very difficult time with any sort of near vision stuff (I’m very nearsighted and have terrible astigmatism.) When I reflect on this, I realize that I avoided doing anything that required near-focus mechanical dexterity. So, I spent a huge amount of time in my head. You would often observe me sitting around programming the computer, or reading, or going for long runs and pondering things by myself.
I wish I’d had littleBits then. While I did fiddle around with the hardware on my Apple ][, I avoided anything else that included tools, wires, nails, bolts, and screws. That was a huge miss on my part, as I’ve found that I love to play around with physical hardware products and electronics as an adult. And, I love to invest in companies that make hardware that makes physical stuff, especially for kids.
So – if you are that kid, or have that kid, jump into things with littleBits. Post something on social media as part of their #MakingChangemakers campaign. Write a blog post about why being that kid helped you achieve what you are today. Share the video above. For every 100 RTs, shares or Likes your post receives, littleBits will donate a Code Kit to an at-risk classroom of your choice to celebrate that kid everywhere.