Interview with Rongzhong Li, the inventor of OpenCat, introduces his robotic cat and dog devices at his Petoi (Shenzhen) Co Ltd Headquarters filming during the May Holiday when his colleagues are on a short holiday but he is always working. We previously did a remote video chat interview back in September 2020 here https://youtube.com/live/iRDgCCpRaX0 He discusses drawing inspiration from nature’s design and optimizing complex animal motions into his robots. Li shares his background as a physics PhD and master’s in computer science, helping him derive basic principles for the robot. He talks about the support from fans during crowdfunding campaigns. Li emphasizes making robotics accessible to the public and explains improvements to the second-generation robot: polished design, improved software, smartphone app for control. He discusses Arduino-compatible boards, computer vision, AI capabilities, and modular processing for future compatibility. Li mentions a customized battery as an accessory. The video shows Li’s office, research center, team, and workspaces. He expresses dedication, vision, and aims to lower barriers for robotics engagement.
Li discusses applications and inspiration for creating smaller robotic animals, particularly dogs. Tasks like patrolling, inspection, disaster response, and transportation require at least 10 more years of development. Animal-like shapes offer functionality wheeled cars lack, such as navigating stairs and recovering from falls. Emotional and social aspects of animal-human interaction and companionship are important. Little robots can serve as companions on tables, providing interaction and programming capabilities. Functionalities like notifications, alarms, and smart assistant features can be added. Handling and understanding the environment through sensors are crucial. Optimization of components and sensor integration into a compact design is discussed. Autonomously returning to a charging station requires planning and understanding the floor plan. Li mentions their presence on social media and a user forum for interaction and support. Over 10,000 units sold worldwide, with Sony’s AIBO as a past competitor. Expanding into educational applications and meeting learners’ needs is highlighted. Challenges in the robotics market are acknowledged, emphasizing accessibility and affordability. Price is important for wider adoption and creating an interesting and affordable gadget.
The challenges and possibilities of creating a convenient and easy-to-use robot are discussed. Making programming features accessible while promoting possibilities is important. The robot should stay out of the way, follow the user, and act as a companion. Implementing such features is difficult, with potential for cloud processing, but local computation and independence are crucial. The open-source software allows user contributions. Trade-offs between small and large teams and managing efficiency are explored. Core values and providing real value to customers are emphasized over raising funds. Balancing profit, fundraising, and market feedback is discussed. Running a real company based on usage and resource allocation is important. Balancing work and life is crucial, and Shenzhen, China offers manufacturing and technological opportunities. Sacrifices and dedication in Shenzhen are acknowledged, appreciating work-life balance and seizing opportunity.
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