The Embodiment of a Miracle
To our Valued Investors:
Those keeping track might be detecting a consistent theme running through these weekly Iron Edge VC company updates, and it is a thread that has only strengthened in the most recent months. NextRoll, xFold, Amplitude, Orbital Insight, and, of course, Palantir Technologies are all companies that rely heavily on Artificial Intelligence (AI). These are companies that employ the ever-improving technology to track pandemics, inspect oil rigs, improve marketing efforts, and monitor crop health, to name only a few. The list of tasks that can be accomplished with much more speed and efficiency through the magic of AI is expanding daily. AI suddenly permeates the most commonplace activities in which we participate. Today, your Tesla can do the driving, your LG smart refrigerator can suggest recipes and intuitively update your shopping list when it detects personal supply shortages, and your iRobot Roomba can take care of your vacuuming while tending to your cat’s short-distance transportation needs.
It’s safe to imagine that the future holds more astounding AI innovations than does the past. Commercial applications in shipping, manufacturing, and even healthcare are increasingly in development. At home, our ways of cooking, cleaning, sleeping, and being entertained are sure to change in ways we have not yet fully envisioned. Indeed, some people are skeptical, or even downright concerned. How will we grow into a future in which robots assume most of the heavy lifting and, more important, most of the thinking? Will the meaning of human life diminish when individuals have fewer requirements to do things for themselves? Worse yet, are we doomed to one day become enslaved by our own creations when the robots eventually conclude that they can take over as a master race of sorts, a la Terminator II? All of that remains to be seen. One can only hope that advancements in this technology are reined in with common sense and mindfulness of society’s best interests.
One startup that has recently begun making waves fully devotes its best-in-class Artificial Intelligence application to a purpose that is undeniably good, and on a deeper level than the act of letting you know that you have to buy some milk or making your car take a left on Main Street. Based in Pasadena, California, a company called Embodied, Inc. has created a robot called Moxie. Moxie doesn’t perform household chores, he doesn’t assist with financial planning, and he doesn’t adjust your home’s temperature in anticipation of your return from work. His job is more important than that: Moxie acts as an intelligent companion for your child, providing “play-based learning that is paced to weekly themes and missions with content designed to promote social, emotional, and cognitive learning”. In creating Moxie, Embodied accomplished an admirable blending of Artificial Intelligence and emotional intelligence to create a highly effective form of life skill development.
Moxie’s visual design was created in collaboration with Pixar Studios. This much is immediately noticeable with one look at the robot’s soft, warm, and generally calming physical features. As soon as Moxie is powered up for the first time, he yawns, stretches, and asks the child, “What’s your name?”, while using facial recognition to permanently establish a familiarity with his new human friend. Moxie’s own facial expressions are widely varied and remarkably true to those of human beings. Those expressions are perfectly synchronized with whatever Moxie happens to be discussing at the moment. If a child tells Moxie a story, Moxie listens intently, and he truly appears interested. When told of an unpleasant event in a child’s day, Moxie follows up by asking relevant questions with his head tilted a little forward, his brow slightly furrowed, and his mouth drawn down just enough to convincingly convey empathy. If the kid cracks a joke, Moxie’s face lights up with delight.
At first, one might be tempted to classify Moxie as “just a toy” (albeit a remarkably advanced one), but such an assessment would be missing the point by a mile. Moxie is programmed with a level of AI that simply does not exist in an ordinary plaything. He has an extremely reliable long-term memory that enables him to frame conversations in context with information that the child had provided during earlier chat sessions. What’s more, the information Moxie gathers accumulates over time to let him develop a comprehensive profile of what makes the child unique. Moxie grows to understand the child’s likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, and fears, and his interactions with the child become increasingly customized. Apart from reciting poetry or singing to a child, Moxie will direct conversation to themes like bullying, learning how to make a friend, or feeling empathy for somebody else’s struggles. In a truly brilliant twist, Moxie delivers these lessons under the pretext that it is actually he who is learning from the child. His “backstory” is that he has been dispatched from a secret laboratory and sent on a mission to learn how to be a better friend, and for that purpose he has recruited the child to be his mentor.
Week by week, Moxie focuses on different themes like “being kind to others” and “appreciating nature”. He will challenge his child with “missions” like writing a loving note to a parent or learning one new fact about a planet. The robot’s sole purpose is to foster the development of social, cognitive, emotional, and communication skills, and it does so in the easy and palatable form of “learning through play”. Originally, the leading child development specialists who collaborated on Moxie’s content based their plan on a prominent body of research that suggested that companion robots are especially effective for children with neurological disorders like autism. Children with autism, for instance, often struggle with eye contact and reading facial expressions, and Moxie’s exaggerated emotions and expressions provide much guidance in these areas in the safe environment of the child’s home. Moxie, then, was originally developed for kids on the spectrum, but during testing it became clear that he could be useful in supporting every child in this critical aspect of personal development. Over the past year, many of the first families that welcomed Moxie into their homes found that their children’s interactions with the robot filled a void that had been created by the lack of in-person learning in schools.
Moxie comes with a companion phone application for parents. Through this program, Mom and Dad can monitor their child’s progress. The provided reports give suggestions on how to bridge the gap between playtime interactions with Moxie and real-life circumstances. In other words, Embodied is not providing a “life hack” that removes the responsibility of child nurturing from the parents. Rather, it creates for the child a secure and non-threatening environment in which a foundation of important lessons is formed for parents to expand for the child into the world outside.
These weekly company updates often come with a “click here” link to provide a more complete insight into whatever private company we are highlighting. In researching about Embodied, we found a video that beautifully showcases Moxie’s remarkable functionality as it adeptly demonstrates how the relationship grows between Moxie and a child. Don’t blow this one off. Click here for Embodied’s two-minute presentation. We really think you will be impressed.
Artificial Intelligence has been evolving for decades, and Embodied is steering it into the most exciting, unexpected, and singularly meaningful places. Unfortunately for most, the company’s shares are not yet available to the investing public. It is privately held, not for sale at the stock exchange, but your friends at Iron Edge VC can deliver your piece of this promising enterprise through our fund before the masses have the opportunity drive the stock price to new heights. Demand for ownership is likely to spike in this name as public awareness of its innovations inevitably grows, but at the moment it is still early enough in the game to beat the rush. If you would like to learn more, or if you know of anybody else who would, do not hesitate to contact us by clicking “Get in Touch” below.
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As always, shares are available on a first come, first served basis.
Paul Maguire, Founder & Managing Partner
The Iron Edge Team