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-xitome Design llc, Warwick, Rhode Island

Page history last edited by Madame Curious 10 years, 9 months ago

12/21/2010

 

Over the last few weeks, I've had a chance to spend time with Kailas Narendran of Xitome Design.  Kailas is, as best as I can tell, a professional inventor and serial entrepreneur.  He's started a few companies based on various ideas him and his friend, John McBean, have come up with.  Their first company, Myomo, is based on an idea they came up with to make a robotic brace that helps paralyzed people move.  

 

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While they were starting Myomo as graduate students at MIT, they made robots on the side and created Xitome.  They primarily made robots for various professors they knew at MIT.  After they finished their graduate work, they spun out Myomo but continued to work on robots on the side.  After a few years, they left their full time positions at Myomo, and started focusing entirely on their robots and other ideas.  During this time they developed the MDS robot with MIT.  The publicity this robot received really kicked their robot business into a higher gear!

 

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Kailas works from his home office.  Their first company, Myomo, started in the apartment he lived in after college, moved to a storage closet that was turned into an office on their college campus (shared with 5 people), and finally into an office building with many other employees.  While working in an office has its own charm, he really seems to like the home office phase of the process.

 

Most of his scientific work is computer based.  When they need to make robots, they hire people to help them fabricate the parts, and assemble the whole systems.  During my visit, Kailas actually had a robot he was assembling, so I got to take a peak under the hood!

 

 

The robot is called mRoCo, which stands for "Mobile Robotic Computer".  It's a computer monitor, mounted on a robotic "neck" that lets it express emotions.  When it's fully up and running, it'll be very similar to the Pixar Lamp.  

 

 

While this robot is considerably simpler than the MDS robot and other ones that they make at Xitome Design, there's still a lot going on inside the robot!  In addition to lots of custom made aluminum parts, there were control electronics, a battery, motors and a lot of wire!

 

 

 

Most of the work that Kailas does on robots is based in low level hardware and software that controls how the robots actually move.  His customers take the hardware platforms Xitome develops, and write higher level software that makes the robots interact with people in natural ways.  This software development allows scientists to test theories about how humans think and interact.

 

 

Kailas' desk is usually covered with circuit boards and test equipment that he uses to develop and test new hardware to control robots.

 

 

These things are really small!  Since robots are so specialized, they require custom electronics, mechanical hardware and software.  All of these circuit boards he showed me were custom designed and built by Xitome for their robots.  The boards are hand assembled under a microscope using tweezers. 

 

 

 Components are stuck to the board using a tool called a soldering iron.  It's an iron with a fine tip that's used to melt a soft metal (solder).  When the metal gets hot, it flows between the leads of the components and the circuit board.  When it cools, it hardens and holds the components down (like when glue dries in an art project).  Since the parts are so small, the work frequently requires use of a magnifying glass.

 

 

In addition to being an inventor, Kailas is also an entrepreneur.  As such, he spends a lot of time on the phone talking to customers, business partners, vendors, suppliers, and all sorts of other folks that are part of the process of taking science and technology, and turning it into a product that other people use.

 

 

There sure is a lot to do!  Most of the time Kailas is in the middle of doing 2-3 things.  It seems pretty exciting!

 

 

Although Kailas has a business partner in Xitome, his only office mate is his dog.  She likes to hang out and make sure the robots don't misbehave.  She's really friendly.  I guess that's one of the benefits of working from home!

 

 

Before I left Kailas showed me a top secret research project they've been working on for the past year!  Don't worry, it's all public information now :).  It's a new device they invented to help make parents lives easier.  They've formed a new company to market and sell this product called Kiinde.  It should be hitting shelves in the next few months.  Check out their website to learn more about it!

 

 

Finally, here's me hanging out on the couch with the face shell of one of the robots!  It'll make a great halloween costume for Kailas' daughter!

 

It looks like being an entrepreneur and inventor is a lot of fun!  There's quite a bit of scientific process and creativity, mixed with business and sales.  It's an interesting mix of technical work, and interacting with people.  It may not be for everyone, but if you like it, it seems to be quite addictive!

 

Nanu nanu, and goodbye!

 

-mme curious

 

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