Consumer Robot for Autism Therapy Wins Top Prize In Nation’s First RoboBowl Competition

A Pittsburgh startup, Interbots, won a first prize of $25,000 for its plan to develop consumer robots that could help boost the social skills of autistic children in the inaugural RoboBowl venture competition.

Interbots was one of five companies to present proposals for next-generation robotics products or services in the health care and quality of life industries during the finals of the RoboBowl Pittsburgh competition at Carnegie Mellon University on Oct. 13.

The event was sponsored by The Robotics Technology Consortium, Carnegie Mellon University and the Innovation Accelerator. It was the first in a series of national “next-generation robotics” venture competitions intended to find and foster startup and early-stage companies seeking to develop products and services that address unmet and underserved market needs in targeted industrial sectors.

Interbots, founded in 2005, is a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. The company  specializes in the design and construction of custom interactive characters – both physical and virtual – as well as control software, and interactive multimedia content. Its RoboBowl proposal focused on an affordable consumer robot and accompanying iPad/PC software that would allow therapists and parents to guide autistic children through activities that practice social referencing skills.

Another Pittsburgh company, TactSense Technologies, took second place and a $10,000 prize. A spin-off of the University of Pittsburgh, TactSense presented a novel tactile feedback system for robotic surgical systems. The other finalists, Bright Cloud International Corp. of Highland Park, N.J., Origami Robotics of Pittsburgh, and RescueBotics of Mountain View, Calif., each received $5,000 prizes.

Summaries of the finalists’ proposals are available at

“We were pleased to be part of the National Robotics Initiative’s inaugural RoboBowl business plan competition that took place with the ‘Innovation Accelerator @ Carnegie Mellon’ event,” said John Pyrovolakis, founder and CEO of Innovation Accelerator. “These competitions will create new business ideas for commercial robotics applications, with other ones to follow in the areas of manufacturing robotics, infrastructure and environmental robotics, and education robotics.”

The judges for the final round competition were Pyrovolakis; Helen Greiner, president and CEO CyPhyWorks, president and CEO, Robotics Technology Consortium, iRobot co-founder; Nathan Harding, co-founder and CTO, Berkeley Bionics; Venetia Kontogouris, senior managing director, Trident Venture Capital; Rich Lunak, president and CEO, Innovation Works; Steven S. Martin, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska; and Frank DiMeo, vice president, Technical Staff, Physical & Biological Technologies Practice, In-Q-Tel.

RoboBowl Pittsburgh Deadline Extended to Sept. 15!

The Robotics Technology Consortium, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Innovation Accelerator recently announced that the first RoboBowl competition will take place during the “Innovation Accelerator @ Carnegie Mellon” event at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA on October 13, 2011.

Entry Submissions have been extended until Thursday, Sept. 15. Check out key dates here.

The competition is the first of what is expected to be a series of new venture competitions intended to find and foster start-up and early-stage companies seeking to develop “big idea” products and services in healthcare, manufacturing, national defense, education, and other domains based on next-generation robotics technology.

RoboBowl Pittsburgh is open to any U.S.-based start-up or early-stage business with an idea or concept for using next-generation robotics technology to develop and bring to market a compelling product or service that addresses unmet or underserved needs in the healthcare and quality of life industries.  Entrants will submit business summaries that judges will review to select semi-finalists who will make on-line presentations.  Judges will then select five finalists, each of whom will win $5,000 in cash prizes, to compete in a live final round on October 13, 2011 for a chance to win an additional $20,000.

“Answers to the most critical challenges facing the U.S. today, related to manufacturing and logistics, healthcare and assisted living, and our national security and infrastructure will come from the creativity, dedication, and passion of entrepreneurs and inventors who utilize next-generation robotics technology to innovate breakthrough solutions,” said Helen Greiner, president of the Robotics Technology Consortium.  “The RoboBowl competitions will help fast-track the formation of new, next-generation robotics ventures across the U.S. and cast a spotlight on the emergence of robotics as a pillar of 21st century innovation.”

“While significant progress has been and continues to be made in the research and development of next-generation robotics technologies, commercialization efforts are still relatively nascent,” said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University.  “By accelerating the transition of next-generation robotics technology developed in university and government laboratories, the RoboBowl competitions are an important complement to the National Robotics Initiative announced by President Obama at Carnegie Mellon University earlier this summer.”

“The RoboBowl competitions are expected to address three specific needs,” said John Pyrovolakis, founder and CEO of the Innovation Accelerator.  “First, they will help create new jobs and viable businesses by catalyzing the adaptation and commercialization of next-generation robotics technologies.  Second, they will help motivate development of the commercialization infrastructure required to further accelerate the pace of innovation.  And third, they will help inform National Robotics Initiative efforts to fund research in the key enabling science and technology areas.  Each of these supports the Innovation Accelerator’s mission of promoting our nation’s economic competitiveness in the global economy by promoting our nation’s innovation.”

Future RoboBowl competitions are expected to take place in various locations across the U.S. and focus on next-generation robotics technology solutions in other domains in addition to healthcare and quality of life, including manufacturing and logistics, national defense, homeland security, civil infrastructure, energy, transportation, and field industries such as agriculture and mining.