Work is going Google.
Orbotix taps Google Apps to bring robots to life
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Colorado has enticed all sorts of pioneers since its Wild West beginnings. We’re excited to highlight a handful of these trailblazers - the intrepid entrepreneurs, aspiring micro-brewers and ambitious thought leaders - who have helped create the adventurous and innovative culture the Centennial State is known for. Today, we hear from Ian Bernstein and Adam Wilson, co-founders of Boulder-based
, a robotics toy company.
Can you tell us about Orbotix and how the company got started?
Orbotix is a new kind of robotics toy company: we’re creating a game platform that combines physical objects, smartphones and a software marketplace. We launched in 2010 with our first product, the
, a robotic ball you can control with a tilt, touch or swing from your smartphone. You can drive the Sphero ball through a virtual obstacle course or let your dog chase it across your actual yard (under your control, of course) — it lets you both engage in the virtual world and play in the real one. We just released Sphero 2.0, and with a team of 35, we’re just getting started.
Why did you choose Google Apps? How are you using it day-to-day?
We use Google products like Gmail, Drive and Docs in our personal lives, so it was natural to use Google Apps for Business when we started Orbotix. We rely on Drive to securely store, centralize and share our executive documents — everything from legal forms to non-disclosure agreements. We use Docs to brainstorm, create and collaborate on new ideas, or to upload and store product specs that multiple people need to access on a regular basis. The fact that we can create and edit a single document at the same time has dramatically increased our efficiency and reduced the amount of time it takes to finalize a project. We’re a very collaborative team, and Google helps us keep a very team-oriented work environment. Docs is especially vital when we’re on the road, attending events or working remotely. The fact that we can pull up important docs on our mobile devices is crucial to keeping our business running 24/7.
How do you stay connected with your employees outside of the Boulder office?
Hangouts are integral to keeping the company connected, especially as we’ve expanded beyond Boulder — and into China. Our team there has the Hangouts app on their smartphones so they’re connected and available for a quick chat or for a virtual tour around a factory on the other side of the globe. It makes a world of difference to see each other face-to-face rather than just hear a bunch of voices on a conference call, and the experience is such an organic, seamless part of our daily routine. We saw it ourselves just a few weeks ago, when we were in China to check in with the team and do a global press tour: we found ourselves relying entirely on Hangouts to keep in touch with the Boulder office. Ian would be in one room on a Hangout with our CEO, I'd be in another room on a Hangout with our engineers. It was like we hadn't left Colorado.
Has Google Apps helped in your recruiting efforts?
We're always looking to add tech-savvy programmers and talent to our team, and the kinds of people we're looking for expect us to use cool and cutting edge-technology like Google Apps. I know that if I was looking to join a new company it would be a red flag if they were using anything different. We all use Google in our personal lives, so it’s natural that we want to extend that experience to our professional lives.
Do you use Google Apps to partner and collaborate with groups outside of your company?
Absolutely. We recently launched Sphero Rangers, which teaches kids of all ages how to program using Sphero robots. We go to local classrooms and host meetups in the Boulder area, but because we can’t travel to every city where there’s interest, we made a universal Rangers training deck using Google Presentations. That way, there’s a single master document we can share with our partners just by sending along a URL, and we know they always have the most up-to-date version. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, for example, have hosted a handful of programming classes for kids, thanks to our handy shared Google Presentation.
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