In this guest post, Frank Tobe, a robotics analyst and publisher of The Robot Report, describes a recent debate between two prominent robotics executives and their opposing views on how to nurture profitable robotics businesses.
Left: Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot, in Bedford, Mass. Right: Robert Bauer, executive director for commercialization at Willow Garage in Menlo Park, Calif.
What's the best approach to building commercially successful robotics companies: To develop specific, proprietary products that satisfy the needs of large markets, or to develop and share free, open-source technologies and wait for the commercial applications to emerge?
These two points of view were presented by executives from iRobot and Willow Garage in a spirited cocktail party debate the other evening in Lyon, France, at InnoRobo 2012, a trade show for service robotics. Here's how it happened, who they were, and what they said.