How DJ Sures Built EZ-Robot from the Ground Up

Robotics Technology
How DJ Sures Built EZ-Robot from the Ground Up
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“You can spend time on one robot, or share what you’ve learned with the world and have a million.”

That’s what my grandfather said to me one summer while I was struggling to build an R2-D2-style add-on for an iRobot Roomba vacuum.

Without knowing complicated C, electronics, or mechanics, there were no options to build science fiction-grade robots. All we had were children’s Lego toys or starting from zero.

I set out to take everything I knew about robotics and package it into the world’s first complete integrated robot building platform.

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My first prototype was not going to win any beauty contests, but it worked. Now all I needed was to create the software. It occurred to me that anyone building robots must already have a computer or mobile device. Wireless connectivity could enable the software to take advantage of faster processors and peripherals. Fast-forward three years, and the EZ-Builder software now hosts a mobile designer to create personalized robot apps and instantly publish to mobile devices.

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Once everything seemed to work, it was time to create a circuit board and camera that people could purchase. I soldered around 100 units in my basement. They all sold in a week. My grandfather was right — I was onto something!

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My talented friend Jeremie Boulianne, now EZ-Robot’s lead engineer, professionally reworked my board into the popular EZ-B v3. Using the controller and software, I was able to quickly hack old toys into vision processing, speech recognizing, autonomous robots. My article “Teaching Old Toys New Tricks” in Make: Vol. 27 (see the teaser video bel0w) is when EZ-Robot truly took off — our forum flooded with new members and community contributions. There were new features in software updates 2 or 3 times per week. Community members were building amazing robots all over the world.

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EZ-Robot raised a million dollars in angel funding and brought in an additional half a million in presales with a crowdfunding campaign to create a modular robot product called Revolution. While the bigger corporations said it couldn’t be done or they weren’t interested, the smaller, scrappy groups went both feet in. This helped EZ-Robot build relationships for manufacturing, assembly, quality control, and shipping logistics.

Graduating from my basement, I packed as many engineers and 3D printers that would fit into a 2,000-square-foot office. For a year we worked day and night, open sourcing the 3D-printable components, API’s, and SDKs, and released an educational robot and IoT platform!

EZ-Robot now occupies a 6,000-square-foot, custom-built facility in Calgary, with a dedicated manufacturing facility in Shenzhen. There are more than 20,000 amazing robots powered by EZ-Robot. Revolution robots are actively shipping to over 100 countries. We’re hard at work on the Revolution v2 platform while continuing to build relationships with similar-minded makers, geeks, and nerds who believe the real world should be a lot more like science fiction. The million-robot target is in our sights.

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DJ Sures is a roboticist from Canada who began taking apart toys, stereos, and televisions at a young age. His employment history includes names like Symantec, Cisco Systems, NASA, and more.

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