Excursion to the production company Promobot. Interview with CTO

    Promobot is a young company from Perm; it is a startup with a product recognized all over the world. Now it is the largest manufacturer of autonomous service robots in Northern and Eastern Europe. In the post a brief history of development and success. Under the cut a lot of unique photos from production. The company's production takes up two thousand square meters in Perm, based on the Morion industrial park. The production cycle includes the production of electronics, plastic and metal parts. On the basis of the enterprise, software development, assembly operations, testing of basic systems, commissioning and technical support are carried out.
    Igor Yeremeyev, Technical Director Promobot answers the questions.

    Your company is unique to Russia. You do not stop there and are constantly evolving. Can you now remember how it all began?

    Promobot was founded in 2015 by Alexey Yuzhakov, me, Oleg Kivokurtsev and Maxim Utev. We represented a snow blower at the Big Intelligence innovative projects competition in 2014. There Alexey Yuzhakov acted as a speaker.

    After the speech, Oleg met Alexey, told us that we were engaged in various projects in the field of robotics and suggested introducing the results into Alexey’s projects. Yuzhakov liked the idea and he offered to meet to discuss prospects.

    Further, it was Yuzhakov who proposed to make a promoter robot. He offered us space and funding. We had to build the first prototype.

    Built We were lucky to test one of the shopping centers, and there he attracted a lot of attention. And so decided to continue.

    What motivated you?

    It all started as a hobby. More precisely, it all started with studies, then turned into a hobby, and then a financial component appeared.

    Looking back, did you do everything right? What rakes collected on the road?

    In the case of Promobot, we did everything right. Before that, we did a robot snow blower, and it was not claimed. We sold a few and did not get the best feedback. He was not comfortable enough, not technological enough. Therefore, she did not go to the masses. We switched to Promobot on time.

    Then just we met with Alexei Yuzhakov. He became the ideological inspirer. Before that there were techies - me and Maxim Utev, was Oleg Kivokurtsev, who knew how to sell.

    And one more detail, I always worked with friends or with relatives. It was my rake. But when I got in touch with Oleg and Maxim, I started working with people who are completely unfamiliar to me. We did not have any claims to each other, circumstances or obligations. We just started doing what was needed.

    What difficulties have you encountered and how have you overcome them?

    Financing. When we did the snow blower, we did it at our own expense. Then I had my own business and I could afford it. But, probably, the guys who have just graduated from the university, it will be difficult to independently engage in commercial robotics.

    Perseverance. Promobob is different from other teams where I worked, it is this quality. Here it is impermissible to postpone for tomorrow what can be done today. Need to take and do. We sit here constantly and work on the result. Any ways. The sooner the result, the better. Any result.

    Are you more of a startup or technology company?

    Here is a very fine line. It seems to me that inside the office we still remain a startup - in terms of management, structure, people, mobility. Outside the office, probably we are already a company. However, no one needs to strive to cease to be a startup.

    Igor, do you do something with your hands? Do you have to model, code or take on a drill?

    I have a lot to do with my own hands. An hour ago I could have been a system administrator and dealt with the servers, after half an hour I am a programmer and try out a new code for common needs, and after two more I am already building a table in a conversation and doing office space. Therefore, yes.

    How does your robot work? What hardware components do you use?

    Most of the hardware components are developed by us personally, with the exception of computing modules. Computing modules - this is a normal computer, reduced at times. And all the control boards, servos and so on - all this is done by our specialists in Perm.

    If you look at the percentage, then we now have 70 domestic and own components for 30 imported ones. Of these 70 - half of our components. The metal is made by contractors in Perm, according to our drawings. Parts of the body - we buy plastic itself, but we mold it in our factory. All hardware component is developed and assembled by us too. Practically we do everything ourselves.

    Do you use ROS? Any other technology in the software?

    We used it from the beginning. When we started, we had no programmers and I did everything myself. I accidentally chose ROS, there were a lot of video benefits for it. Later it turned out that this was the right decision.

    By the way, speaking of the rake, you should not reinvent the wheel and try to think of everything from scratch. You need to use what is already there and adapt.

    We do it to this day. If we need a package of navigation, then we take something from open sources and modify it for ourselves. And when work is going on for a long time, nothing remains of the original data. But in the beginning it gives a certain point of growth, relative to which you can move.

    Previously used OpenCV - library for pattern recognition and images. It is still used here, but very little. Face recognition is now implemented through a solution from partners. This is not our development, however we have been working with them for a long time and deliver massive BigData. That is, images of images from all robots, of which there are already more than four hundred. On their basis, the program is better and better recognized.

    The lingobase with which the robot communicates is also completely our development. It began its development in 2014, then underwent significant refinement and the second version of the system was released. In fact, it now contains several components - this is a database with answer-question pairs, and there is a part written using neural networks with which it can search for answers to questions on the text.

    Speech recognition tried from Google and Yandex. As a result, we are now working on our own. Because the recognition parameters of the phone, which lies nearby, and the robot at the exhibition are different. We manually processed requests from robots from noisy places, with different features of speech, and on the basis of these data we taught the system to recognize well in the conditions in which the robot is located.

    Do you support any opensource projects? Do you publish in the open access part of their work?


    Do you use continuous improvement technology? What to expect from promobot V.5?

    Yes, we are constantly working to improve the robot. For example, the fourth version of the robot today and a year ago are completely different robots. We are constantly releasing releases that improve recognition, navigation, and new systems of safe movements or scripts.
    At the beginning of each year, we designate areas of optimization and then we are already engaged in implementation.

    You made a cool service for creating robot movements. How does the motion studio work? What technologies do you use? How is the rendering?

    This is a web service. The basis is a 3D model of the robot, it has interactive nodes that can twist, twist, build movements from them. From this you can create a script, add music, change the colors of the backlight, and so on. The script is saved and transferred to the robot as a file.

    What are your plans and prospects related to Promobot?

    Soon we will launch our technical blog. My colleagues and I will lead him, we plan to talk about how our robot is being done, create reviews on new products, equipment, and trends in the world of robotics.

    If we talk about the global plans of the company, now we are working on expanding the geography of supplies, developing new application cases, for example, a robot concierge, a robot consultant, a robot guide. This is a kind of set of functions designed to work in a specific industry. In the company, we call it application cases. And continuous improvement, of course.

    PS: From myself I want to add that it is incredibly pleasant that we have such companies in Russia. This is an indication that for success it is not necessary to leave the Russian Federation, it is not even necessary to move to Moscow. All barriers are within us. Promobot, thanks!

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