Finalist | Aisoy (Spain) – a complex technology to play to personal potential

02/25/2015  |  CODE_n Alumni, CODE_n15 Startup CONTEST, Interview

Aisoy is building a revolutionary, emotional, robotic mentor for kids. Friendly, helpful, intelligent and connected, Aisoy enhances creativity through discovery, adding a new class of personal robotic platform for innovative educational concepts. We talked to José Manuel del Río, CEO of Aisoy Robotics.

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Where did your idea for the company come from?

José Manuel del Río (Aisoy): I am passionate about computers and technology because my father gave me an MSX computer when I was a child. I spent a lot of hours enjoying the device. I learnt so much doing amazing things like “drawing a line in a green monitor” ;-). I became a computer engineer as a result, specialized in artificial intelligence (maybe also because of science fiction literature and movies). I would like to give children a similarly amazing learning experience (updated to nowadays) and I think that the best way is to offer something new and magical. Artificial intelligence and robotics joined together can provide this, only more realistically, tangibly, directly and with “immersion.” Give the power to children to explore and stimulate their creativity.

For which kind of audience is your product or service intended and what problem is it solving?

José Manuel del Río (Aisoy): Aisoy is for children of any age. My father is 70 years old and is learning to code with Aisoy1 and Blockly. Education needs to adapt to current times and prepare our kids for the future, not giving the answers but promoting an attitude based on “learning to learn” and discovering how things work. Learning to enjoy to investigate, analyze, build, establish a hypothesis, experiment, discover, collaborate, share and communicate. To be successful means to answer to the following kids’ needs:

  • Kids need to touch, play and experiment with real things (not only multimedia things) by themselves
  • Kids need something new that surprises and engages them – something magical
  • Kids need a personal strategy with things going at their own speed because of different levels and types of intelligence in the classroom as well as at home

Current technologies (electronic boards, computers, tablets, electromechanical robot kits) do not fully fulfill those needs. Instead, Aisoy Social robots are real and magic, because they are interactive robots! In this day and age, a social robot has the power to engage like never before. And ours is the perfect way to adapt to every kid because they are emotional.

Tell us a bit about the company’s founders like their professional or industry background and the origins of the founding idea.

José Manuel del Río (Aisoy): I talked about my vision with my friends Diego and David. They shared my vision from the beginning and we have been working hard ever since to turn that dream into reality: a radically new education experience.

I, José Manuel del Río, am the founder of Aisoy Robotics. I’m have a Computer Science MSc degree from UPM in Madrid and I’m a Spanish entrepreneur. Over the past 15 years, I have launched several technology companies based on the same principles: artificial intelligence and decision-making engines. I have created a predictive platform used in main Spanish companies, such as Telefonica or Inditex, to improve fraud detection and customer retention. My specialties are artificial intelligence, the Internet, robotics, management and startups. In 2009 I founded my latest startup: Aisoy Robotics, which wants to create and democratize social robotics, bringing personal robots into our everyday lives to make our life more fun and easier. Aisoy introduced its first prototype, Aisoy1, in 2012. It’s a programmable social robot for learning robotics and programming at a very affordable price!

Diego García is the vice-president and head of engineering and product development. He has an Electrical Engineering degree from UPV and an MBA from the University of Valencia focusing on technological enterprise. He has over 8 years of experience in managing ICT and bio-engineering projects at organizations such as Telefónica, Hospital Clínico Universitario de Valencia and Medtronic, as well as the commercialization of consumer electronic products, especially social robots.

David Ríos is our scientific advisor. He is a professor of Statistics and Operations Research at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and a permanent member of the Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences. He has written 15 books and monographs and over 100 peer-reviewed articles in areas which include decision analysis, risk analysis, Bayesian statistics and the analysis of negotiations and their applications. Previously he has been a professor and/or researcher at Purdue, Duke, Samsi, IIASA, Paris-Dauphine, CNR-IMATI and the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He has been principal investigator on 45 funded projects and university manager (Director of Department and Vice Chancellor) for almost 10 years. He owns one patent.

Why did you choose to make a toy? Has artificial intelligence to be cute to break down barriers?

José Manuel del Río (Aisoy): Aisoy Robots are not toys. They have complex technology inside (they are more complex than smartphones). They have ASR/TTS, a dialogue system and artificial algorithms for different purposes, … And they have a sweet and friendly appearance because they are emotional robots for children. So, definitely, they are not toys. They have a very affordable and sophisticated machine inside, with a very sweet look on the outside.

See Aisoy live on the CODE_n Stage on Wednesday, 18.03.2015.