Interview

AITech Interview with Elad Inbar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at RobotLAB

The shortage of low-skill workers in certain industries has led to increased adoption of robotic technology. Learn what role robots play in addressing workforce challenges.

Elad, Can you please share your personal journey with robotics from childhood to founding RobotLAB. How has the perception and utility of robots changed over the years?

I’ve loved robots since I was a child. I loved building them, programming them and inventing new creations, but for many years robots were “toys for geeks.” They needed soldering, understanding of electronics and in general, not for 99% of the people, so it stayed as a hobby. Even when I started my first company (MassiveImpact, which focused on optimizing ads on text messages for mobile operators) and moved to Taiwan for 7 years, I always visited the vibrant electronics markets on weekends, looking for developments in sensors, motors, controller boards etc.

Then a bit after the invention of the iPhone in 2007, I started seeing a new wave of what we call today “connected toys” in the markets in Taiwan. It was a tsunami of cars, drones, balls, and other smart objects that are smartphone-enabled. This brought me back to my old passion and showed me the market was finally ready for a robotics company, as all of these smartphone-connected toys can actually be programmed to do many other things. After all, apps on smartphones are just a programming interface.

I sold my shares in my company and started RobotLAB, focusing on introducing innovation into classrooms and bringing to life math, science and physics for students. We created lesson plans, curricula and everything teachers needed in order to teach these abstract concepts using robots. We couldn’t find everything teachers wanted, so we had to build some of the robots ourselves!

Back in 2007, there were no service, delivery or cleaning robots. It took a few more years for these products to mature and become reliable enough to where we are today, with a vast portfolio of robots that can do everything business owners need them to do.

In the past few years alone, we’ve seen the demand for these products skyrocket. We can’t keep up with the demand, with it coming from everywhere (around the country and beyond) and all at once. That’s why we decided to implement franchising in our business model, so we can have multiple RobotLAB teams in every metro area. My vision is to make sure that whenever a business owner needs a robot, they can find a RobotLAB team in their backyard to be there same-day to assist them.

What is your vision for the future of robotics and its potential to further transform industries, education, and society as a whole?

Robotics has significant transformative potential. They will make industries more efficient and adaptable, introducing new business models and changing how sectors like healthcare and manufacturing operate. Robots can address challenges like elder care and urban efficiency.

They can also offer students hands-on learning, making education more tailored and effective. It’s not just about learning robotics; it’s about learning with them.

My vision for the future of robotics includes machines working alongside us, specifically in a more inclusive, equitable, and innovative world where technology amplifies the best of human capabilities.

Can you please provide a brief overview of RobotLAB and its significance in the field of robotics?

Since its founding in 2007, RobotLAB has provided turnkey robotics solutions to companies of all sizes in industries including foodservice, hospitality, banking, education, assisted-living, education, cleaning, delivery and hospitals. Our talented team of roboticists has effectively deployed thousands of robots that have provided businesses with a clear path to the successful and highly specialized integration of robotics solutions. 

As labor becomes increasingly expensive and scarce, we help businesses harness the power of robotics to improve bottom-line and employee retention by reallocating routine tasks to automated technologies. Our team oversees all aspects of the robotics integration process – from sales, tailored programming, on-site integration and repairs – to ensure businesses can access and understand solutions that will dramatically improve their performance. To improve the availability of robotics access nationwide, we recently launched a first-of-its-kind robotics integration franchise opportunity in 40 U.S. states, with the remainder set to clear before the end of 2023.

How did the idea of creating the world’s first robot franchise come about? What was the inspiration behind it?

As a leading robotics integration company, we recognized that the robotics market needed more local access to our services. We see an overabundance of demand for robots, but most resellers who ship direct from the manufacturer do not provide training, hands-on help and other necessary tools that make the most of the equipment. At RobotLAB, this A-to-Z service is what we do best and what sets us apart from all other robotics sellers or integrators.

We’ve seen great success on the B2B side, but we feel that RobotLAB needs to physically be everywhere to fulfill the demand we are currently facing. We’re franchising to expand not only where we operate locally, but who we operate with. Combining future-focused, aspirational talent with our successful infrastructure is a clear path to succeeding in equipping our modern society with progressive tools.  

Could you explain how robotics integration benefits both business owners and consumers? How does it contribute to the growth of the robotics ecosystem?

Robotics integration improves operations by means of efficiency, quality, flexibility and safety. Robots are able to streamline operations by reducing the time and cost associated with production or service delivery. They offer consistent output, reducing human error and ensuring standardization, while also offering the flexibility to adapt to market changes. Robots also reduce workplace injuries by taking over hazardous tasks.

On the consumer side, robots can work around the clock and ensure services or products are available when consumers need them. As robots alleviate redundant tasks from customer service workers, they are able to dedicate more time to improving the customer experience

Robotics integration fuels the growth of the robotics ecosystem as a result of the mutual positive feedback loop from businesses and consumers. This encourages further investment in robotic technology, leading to advancements and innovations. As more sectors adopt robotics, a vibrant ecosystem of developers, manufacturers, educators, and end-users emerges. This interconnected network accelerates the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and innovations, propelling the growth and evolution of the entire robotics industry.

How do you view the integration of Artificial Intelligence in the education sector? What potentials and challenges do you see in leveraging AI for educational purposes?

The main conversation around AI in education sectors so far is centered around how educational institutions can filter and check student work to see if AI wrote pieces of it. However, there’s no feasible way of definitively knowing if something was written by a human or a robot since humans also have a tendency to sound over-structured. Educators should instead use AI to their advantage, like enhancing existing simulative educational systems with AI to mimic human behavior.

Could you share examples of how robots have enhanced customer experiences and operational efficiency in industries like restaurants, schools, hotels, and assisted living facilities?

In restaurants like La Duni, for example, owners are struggling to maintain a staffing level that is required to keep the business afloat. With the introduction of delivery robots, they have allowed their existing staff to fill the demand of customers. Not only has it remedied their labor shortage, but servers are much happier not having to do repetitive, manual tasks like moving dishes to each table. At this restaurant, and many that we deploy to, servers always see an increase in tips. They are able to handle more tables and offer better service without the mundane tasks in their day to day.

The shortage of low-skill workers in certain industries has led to increased adoption of robotic technology. How do you see the role of robots evolving in addressing workforce challenges in these industries?

Many of the robots we have today are alleviating the current labor shortage. The hospitality industry, for example, has seen the loss of many low-skill workers. With the introduction of cleaning robots, they can pick up tasks like vacuuming, mopping and scrubbing floors without human intervention. Delivery robots help restaurant servers focus on the more skilled aspects of their job, like delivering excellent service and customer-forward conversation.

Soon, many hotels will adopt delivery technology that brings room service to your door via a robot with a personalized code to unlock. Robots are already addressing workforce challenges and RobotLAB is bringing them to businesses to help overcome those challenges.

How do you see the relationship between humans and robots evolving as technology continues to advance?

As technology advances, the relationship between humans and robots will become more collaborative. Robots are tools, designed to enhance human capabilities. As they become more integrated into our daily lives, they’ll be seen less as distant machines and more as extensions of our own capacities.

In education, for instance, robots will serve as learning aids, making educational experiences more personalized and interactive. In industries, they will work alongside humans, taking on repetitive tasks and allowing us to focus on more value-added activities.

Elad Inbar

Founder and CEO of RobotLAB

Elad Inbar is the founder and CEO of RobotLAB (www.robotlab.com), a unique company dedicated to making robots smart and useful in multiple industries, including education, hospitality, restaurants, hotels, assisted living facilities, etc. His current ventures in robotics and education have received wide publication and recognition in Time Magazine, The New Yorker, Tech Crunch, IEEE, NBC, Financial Times, Fast Company, CNET, San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets. He shares his experience as a keynote speaker in many events such as SxSW, National Restaurant Association, Florida Lodging and Restaurant Association, and TCEA, ACTE, FETC and many others. Elad also sits on the Forbes Technology Council. With parallel careers in academia and technology, Elad is uniquely qualified to bridge the cutting-edge robotics industry and the educational and retail markets.

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