More and more consumer products are taking cues from robotics

What is a robot? It’s a mobile science lab roving Mars and a quadcopter drone that delivers tacos on-stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. But robotic elements are also increasingly being incorporated into objects we don’t consider very bot-like.

Take Nest. Co-founder Matt Rogers told a crowd at Disrupt Monday that it hired a team of roboticists to build its smart thermostat. Like a classic robot, smart thermostats need to be aware of their surroundings, from temperature to tracking patterns of when humans are and are not home.

“It actually was a really easy sell,” Rogers said. “Once you hear the idea to do a thermostat, first you think I’m nuts and then you realize how big the problem is.”

Rogers was joined on stage by Shasta Ventures co-founder Rob Coneybeer, Anki CEO Boris Sofman and Skycatch CEO Christian Sanz, all of whom are taking on the challenge of funding or commercializing robotics-related products despite the technology remaining expensive and limited.

“Robotics has been around for several decades. this is the first time people can expect it to come into their lives and have a big impact,” Sofman said.

Coneybeer said Shasta Ventures looks to fund companies that know their audience and understand most people are willing to pay $30 to $50 for a product. He also said they should look at customers as advocates and a long-term relationship instead of repeat buyers of a product. The other panelists agreed.

So while highly intelligent robots are a ways off for the average consumer, companies are getting smarter about working with what they have to deliver what consumers want.

“The way we think about things is the product should get better with time, you should love it more and more and you should tell your friends,” Rogers said. “That’s the most valuable thing is word of mouth.”

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