When Betabeat first met Russian tycoon Dmitry Grishin in June, the CEO of Mail.ru was arguing that personal robotics companies needed to put the same emphasis on customers and user experience as their consumer Internet counterparts.
Today, Grishin Robotics, his New York City-based venture capital firm, has made an investment that could mean a step in that direction: $250,000 in funding for RobotAppStore, which bills itself as the first-ever marketplace for apps that “extend the functionality of any types of robot–from Roomba vacuum cleaners and NAO humanoids to the AR.Drone quadcopter and Sphero (the robotic ball).”
“The concept of ‘Cloud robotics’, which implies ability of all robots to connect to the internet, share a common knowledge database and seamlessly upgrade their functions in real-time, is a soon-to-be future; one reminiscent of the of personal computer industry,” Mr. Grishin, who is currently on stage at TechCrunch Moscow, said in a press release.
Much like Apple’s App Store, the market is also encouraging developers to add their own software in exchange for 70 percent of future earnings. RobotAppStore, which was founded in 2011, also offers support for developers with programming manuals and the chance to talk to experts in the field.
Of course, Apple benefits from only having to worry about apps built for its own operating system. But founder and CEO Elad Inbar says that’s where the investment will come in handy. ”Being a part of Grishin Robotics’ portfolio provides high synergy with other robotics companies and better resource utilization,” he said in a press release.
The size of today’s investment is rather small. Mr. Grishin seeded his VC firm with $25 million, which he initially planned to deploy into 10 to 20 mid-stage companies. But according to RobotAppStore’s own estimates, there is room to grow: figures from UNECE, IFR, ABI Research and BCC Research show that more than 30 million programmable robots have been sold to date.
Just think–soon you might be able to buy a DJ Roomba app instead of having to hack it together yourself. [Update: Inspired by Tom Haverford, Roomba manufacturer iRobot has apparently created "a handful of these musical vacuuming wonders." Unfortunately, your name has to be Sam Biddle if you want a test run.]