OhmniLabs: Building Companionship through Telepresence Robots
Thuc Vu, Co-founder & CEO
A robot saving a human life sounds like a fictional reference than a reality, but little did one of the pilot program participants of Ohmni telepresence robots know about the impact that a robot could have in his ailing mother’s life. The worried son was trying to reach out to his mother who was suffering from an acute illness. Unable to reach her on the phone, he immediately logged on to the telepresence robot that he had left at home to take care of his mother. He quickly initiated a video call and drove the robot around the house only to find her in terrible pain. He immediately called 911, standing by his non-English speaking mother as she waited for the help to arrive. Recollecting the incident, Thuc Vu, one of the visionaries behind the indigenous telepresence robot says, “The story showed us the kind of value we can bring to our users and the amount of impact that we can have in their lives.”
As a serial entrepreneur, Thuc Vu has co-founded two other companies, subsequently selling one of them to Google. His third venture, OhmniLabs is a firm born out of the passion for robotics, energized by his friendship with the company’s co-founder Jared Go. The two former roommates time and again envisioned the possibility of general purpose robots that could help humans in the daily walks of life, while being cost-effective. “The cost of robots has always been high, but the value they deliver is comparatively low. Our goal was simple when we started this journey—make affordable robots that enable shared experiences which are delightful, engaging and spontaneous for people,” explains Vu. Having been in the entrepreneurial space for years, the leaders at OhmniLabs have had a clear understanding of prototyping and manufacturing processes, which has enabled them to reduce the cost of manufacturing overheads through technologies such as 3D printing.
Our goal was simple when we started this journey–make affordable robots that enable shared experiences which are delightful, engaging and spontaneous for people
Adopting 3D printing manufacturing has allowed the company to customize their robots for various specifications and use cases. This capability has empowered OhmniLabs to assist healthcare practitioners in providing quality care to patients and senior citizens. “A healthcare set up where caregivers are required at the beck and call of patients and senior citizens could easily cost 5000- 6000 dollars a month. Our motive is to provide affordable companionship and assistance for the elderly, patients, and distant family members,” adds Vu. OhmniLabs’ telepresence robots— or social robots—ensure that senior citizens take medicines on time, guide them around the house, check on their diets, connect their loved ones through video calls, and look after their wellbeing throughout the day.
OhmniLabs also provides support for wearable devices to monitor the heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and similar vital signs of health to ensure the prosperity of senior citizens. It partners with healthcare providers and clinics—by distributing robots through their channels—hoping to provision remote checkups for patients that would have been discharged recently or would require constant supervision. To further improve upon the benefits offered to such users, OhmniLabs seeks to develop a platform to support third-party applications, to fulfill distinct requirements of its clients, and enhance the functionalities of robots through successive iterations. “Our goal is to release close to 10 different generations of robots in a span of two to three years. We believe in consistent iterative upgrades to our arsenal of robots, thereby offering more value to the users,” concludes Vu.
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