Company Six’s founders are mum on details, but they say they’re making advanced technology more affordable and user-friendly, and giving officers more information to make decisions.
Up to this point, robotics made by the Colorado-based company Sphero have been toys or learning tools for children — such as an app-controlled BB-8 droid from the Star Wars franchise — but some of its managers and engineers think the technology could be useful in other environments.
So in May, Sphero spun off a new entity ambiguously called Company Six, with few details beyond the stated mission of helping first responders operate in dangerous situations.
A news release said Company Six started as Sphero’s Public Safety Division, bringing along Sphero’s former COO Jim Booth and former CEO Paul Berberian as CEO and chairman, respectively.
In addition to its founding and leadership, Company Six also announced $3 million in seed funding led by Denver-area investors. These include Spider Capital, Foundry Group, Techstars and new investor GAN Ventures.
Booth told Government Technology that Company Six evolved out of discussions that started in 2013, with nine Sphero employees joining the new company, including himself. Company Six’s website mentions advanced robotics platforms and cloud technology, but Booth was coy about exactly what that meant. He said it will entail hardware for first responders, as well as software to run the hardware and to store, recall and use information. He said use cases could include everyday activities as well as severe tactical situations, but declined to go into specifics.
“This is a companion that people can carry around with them and use as needed, to get an extra set of eyes — more information before they’re going to step into harm’s way or a difficult circumstance,” Booth said. “We’re just looking to give people more information to make good decisions with.”
Asked what kind of breakthroughs he expects from Company Six’s robots, head of product and marketing Damon Arniotes said their key innovation might be in democratizing previously elite technology. Citing the example of cellphones as once-advanced tools now used by every department, Arniotes said the technology Company Six is working on has progressed to a point where it could be affordable and user-friendly in any jurisdiction. He teased that one of the key features will involve video, and he said target customers will include state and local government agencies as well as private security.
“Over the years, we’ve had first responders and others in the industry ask us if we could do something inside of the industry,” he said. “We took a look at it at the time, and the technology, in terms of the hardware we were looking at, just wasn’t there. But we continually developed and worked together as a group, the technology has advanced a lot since then, and we got to a point where we’re really excited about what we can deliver to the market.”
Arniotes said the market probably won’t know more until the first quarter of 2021, when Company Six unveils specifics, with plans for sales to start in the second quarter. Offering speculation that the company is building terrestrial rovers for reconnaissance and surveillance, a story from The Robot Report found financial documents from Company Six referring to patents for three-dimensional navigation, magnetic calibration and signal reception.
The use of robots to transmit live video from danger zones wouldn’t be new — the military has been using them for years, and the Federal Communications Commission approved one from ReconRobotics for state police and fire 11 years ago. But video and wireless signal technology have both improved since then, and the use cases for robots in law enforcement have grown with their sophistication.