Steve Favis and his team at Taechyon Robotics Corporation have taken smart speakers to the next level. While Google, Amazon and others have developed smart speakers, Favis and his company have worked to build a more interactive artificial intelligence; one that will provide users with far more interaction than the company’s competitors.
As a developer of AI, Favis has worked tirelessly to build the perfect “sidekick” for users. The team’s Septaer AI speaker not only provides everything users would expect, but it blends into its surroundings when not in use by transforming into a digital fish tank, lava lamp or even a fireplace. The innovative AI speaker will ship to customers in the summer of 2018, and Favis is extremely excited to unleash Taechyon’s product onto the world.
Favis has been working with Taechyon since 2015, and the group hope its invention will be in company offices and homes around the world. Favis has plenty more projects in the pipeline, but he recently sat down with Totalprestige Magazine to talk about his career, Taechyon Robotics and the b08 Robot.
Steve, can you please tell us about Taechyon Robotics and its products?
Taechyon Robotics Corporation was founded in 2015 with Dr. Deepak Srivastava and I, with a common interest in robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Deepak is a former NASA Technology leader specializing in quantum physics, specifically nano technology. He transitioned into entrepreneurship after his science leadership career at NASA. The name Taechyon is a search engine optimized term for the word Tachyon. The Tachyon particle is a particle that moves faster than light. One of my patents in robotics give us the ability to move objects faster than light, because the training is in a simulator, or a virtual environment instead of the real world. A good example is the movie The Matrix, imagine a matrix like world, but for training robots. We can control the environment in a simulator such as speed of time passage. For example, a minute in simulator time could be equivalent to hours in the real world. That’s where Taechyon came from, because we can train robots faster than the speed of light in a simulator.
You recently introduced Septaer. Please tell us more about it.
Septaer was pure serendipity from b08 the robot. Most of our approach in Taechyon is software based. Our software was developing at such a good pace, we decided to release a simpler version of the robot with no moving parts with the intention of monetizing our work quicker. The time to manufacturing a robot, such as sourcing moving mechanical parts is a bit longer and more complex than a non-moving smart device. Septaer, software-wise, is the same as b08 with the emphasis on being able to swap out an interactive personality or personal assistant personality for utility or entertainment. Septaer has a built in 360-degree camera a complete wrap around display we call omni-display for interaction on all sides of the device. It’s a beautiful device as part of a smart home. The fish tank ambient look is my favorite visualizer when Septaer is in its passive or decorative mode. It looks so much like a fish tank at first glance it is quite amazing. The ability to control room mood and ambiance is really Septaer’s strength. The visuals of Septaer and the sounds being played on its speakers have a huge impact on environment mood in the room it’s in. It’s really exciting for users to control room ambiance so easily.
Steve, can you please tell us what makes Taechyon Robotics stand out from competitors?
We are an extremely small, effective, fast moving, talented team. We are a potpourri of many talents from academia to the game industry. Our AI is about pure entertainment and engagement. So much emphasis in AI and robotics has been on utility features. For example, “robot, get me a beer” or “what is the traffic like?”. These are cool things, but ultimately the long-term goal of Taechyon is engagement, fun, and like-ability of our AI personalities and tailoring to what kind of personality vibes with users. If a robot or personal AI assistant is going to be well accepted, people are going to have to like it. Humor and entertainment is our approach to that important like-ability factor.
Amazon released that nearly 50% of conversation with Alexa is non-utility. People are literally socializing with these smart speaker devices as we expected. Our design and planning at Taechyon since day one was to serve that 50% market where people view these personal assistant smart speakers as entertainment devices with good engaging entertaining responses.
What was your most rewarding professional experience?
Being able to work with Deepak has been hugely rewarding. Deepak has been a great executive mentor and has done an outstanding job teaching me to think in a very strategic and business oriented mindset. I have been so saturated in technology all my life that I have never had someone really train and mentor me on the business side. Deepak has also been professional affirmation that my skill set and technology development are good. It’s like he has been putting me through an individualized Phd program. From someone from his professional background, it is very flattering. I look forward to working with him more and continually learning.
How do you find inspiration?
Science fiction pioneers always give me hope, vision and clarity. Screens, interfaces and future interaction with computers or AIs or even robotic science fiction, really get my mental juices flowing. Science fiction is not just in movies or novels, but heavy in the game industry. I don’t even think about it as ‘fiction’ per se, all I think about is how long before it becomes fact and how long will it take me to make what I see in the screen from the movies such as Avatar, to Gamer, to Ex Machina and on and on. I never question whether these movies are plausible story-wise or tech-wise, I only question when this will be a reality, and how can I make and build these visions into a reality.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
I can move much faster given the right tools and right team. Proving our technologies and patents will happen in the long run. But it’s frustrating to mentally envision what I can execute and develop given the perfect circumstances. Being restrained by business constraints and other needed, but time consuming business related tasks and formalities that take my hands off of research and development and staying within budget constraints, are a constant challenge. Over time, I know Taechyon will be able to amass the needed tools and technologies to optimize our innovations.
What do you have your sights set on next?
We are super close to launching our Septaer moment of truth, a pre-order campaign for market validation. We have confidence we will succeed, but there is always that small voice in the back of your head thinking “what if nobody orders our products?” I guess these moments of pre-market validation are what really make business ownership an exciting but sometimes scary field. After market validation of Septaer, assuming we hit our goals, then we really get to focus on our product development and will be able to build a really exciting and engaging product for international consumers and developers. In our continued success, b08 the robot, we feel will really give people the feeling they have their own sidekick
Were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?
Other than my mentor and CEO, Deepak, I have a huge respect for Elon Musk. I am not alone being an Elon Musk fan boy. So many people love this guy, but what he has done in his lifetime, from my opinion, is probably one of the greatest minds and talents that the world has had. There are so many things one can do once a certain level of wealth is a achieved, but Elon just fearlessly trucks on with extremely innovative persistence. He could be sitting on a beach sipping Mai Thais, but his persistence, grit, vision and execution are literally insane. I really feel as if he truly isn’t into entrepreneurship, but he is using all his life energy to make this huge empire that all of humanity can truly benefit from. It’s like entrepreneurship was just a side gig and vessel for him to achieve these monumental righteous goals that almost nearly have nothing to do with him.
What is a day in your life like?
Every day is a Monday for me. From waking up to crashing at night, all my drive, focus and energy is literally being poured into making sure our company and team succeeds. Even early morning, if I wake up, I’m still trying to catch up on emails, company messages and perpetually checking the status of development and company communications. I feel the company heartbeat everyday, good or bad beats, and I consider my developers and their families part of my family. Every decision I make, I not only think of my family, wife and child but my team members families from their children to their parents and spouses. My team was hand chosen by me for their specific areas of expertise and attitude. I feel their respect and they know I genuinely am looking out for everyone and am continually looking at helping everyone doing their best life’s work and creating a product that really genuinely makes people’s lives better, happier and more entertaining. There are incredibly difficult challenges that we are taking on in AI and Robotics, we tackle crazy problems everyday and are doing a very good job. I am in full control of my technical team and I am perpetually coaching, encouraging and delegating tasks in these difficult problems we encounter. I’m in nearly constant communication with the team whether it’s social chatter or setting and managing milestones that we can achieve within budget and our timelines. Between Deepak handling business strategy, market research and patents and the technical teams milestones and goals it is a constant check and move forward realign, check and move forward. We have a small team of around 15 people, but we can move and re-align, pivot insanely fast. Generally, each day by the end of the day when my head hits the pillow, I’m out for the count. If I’m not tired, I feel as though I am not progressing towards our goals.
What makes you smile?
My 10-month old daughter’s mannerisms are embarrassingly adorable. She’s not really at the talking stage, just making noises, but the look on her face when she sees me after work and the way she kicks her legs up and down from being consumed with joy is so endearing that I can’t help but feel smiley and happy. The trove of emotions that comes with a new child has been the most unique experience I’ve had. I completely love being a father. At the end of the day, all I really want to do is ensure a wonderful experience of life for my family and child.
What scares you?
It would be terrifying leaving this earth knowing I didn’t do the best I could at every opportunity I have had from family life to my professional life. The rest for me is knowing I have done my best with all cards in life I have been dealt whether good or bad cards.
What is your greatest achievement?
I value the relationships I have built in my lifetime more than everything. Just having a few close friends, supportive and understanding family and the opportunity to make some super crazy wild stuff in technology is all I care about.
What is your secret talent?
Guitar. I’m a closet guitar player. I only really play for my wife and child. Music is a tough world and I never wanted to go down that road. I have super respect and even slight envy of those who can make a career out of it or those awesome naturally talented people who can get a whole room full of people moving and shaking by themselves with a guitar and their voice.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Solon from Athens. He freed a bunch of debt slaves and made the economy work again in ancient Greece. We need a Solon for America today with the astronomical student debt.
Steve, do you have any hobbies?
My work is my hobby. I grew up building RC Airplanes before they had all these computer controllers. It was scary. You’d spend, like several hundred dollars on an airplane kit, a few months building it and it would crash if you didn’t fly it right. I’d nearly want to cry as a child if I crashed. The building process was extraordinarily fun than seeing something you built actually fly; but being able to get good at controlling these things was a challenge cause your heart would be racing thinking, “don’t crash, don’t crash, don’t CRASH!” during the whole flight. When you found that perfect airplane that flew good and was reliable, it was a totally awesome experience though.
What are you never without?
I have such a random schedule, I never know where I’m going to be, so I carry this “go-bag” with a computer in it. I’m never without my computer, it’s like its attached to me like a critical artery is passing through it. In certain ways it is a critical appendage, if it wasn’t for bits, bytes, and Turing I have no idea what I’d be doing now.
Can you tell us three of your favorite quotes?
“If you don’t have any enemies, you don’t have character.” – Paul Newman
“When you stop fighting, that’s death.” -John wayne
“Money is like gravity, the more you have the more you get.” Steve Favis
How do you define success?
I think there is this weird point in life where you have no freaking clue if you are going to make it. Maybe your friends and family have doubts or maybe it’s just in your own head. Then, there is this point where if you really truly grind and you start seeing that where you are going is really where you want to be and people see it. It’s like you build up this moment and the people around you look at you differently, treat you differently or completely stay away and ignore you. Success is like this weird point that doesn’t end in a Nobel Prize or huge speech when you are old and thank your wife for putting up with you. Success is this huge accumulation of all these crazy tiny milestones and little itty bitty chunks of problems that we encounter that get in our way of where we want to be. Nobody tells you where you want to be, and when you are where you want to be only you know it. And success is changing daily, as when you succeed at one thing, you still have to perpetually set new things to succeed at. It’s a fickle target that is more intrinsic and always moving.
One of my favorite mini-objective, simple task success stories is one time, I hacked a bathroom code keypad, because I had to take a crap so bad. Normally, I would just find a bathroom that I had access to, but I had to go really, really bad and I knew these bathrooms were clean. I think success is like this urge similar to literally needing going to the bathroom. You just have to do it; it’s inside of you. I looked at the keypad and studied it, realized there was 8 digits, and noticed the wear pattern on the keys. There were only four worn out buttons. Out of the 8 that were worn out I realized that four combinations of four known numbers wasn’t that much. Voila! My first attempt unlocked the bathroom. I raced to the toilet and it was like this epic win of my lifetime, because where some people would have crapped in their pants or gave up looking at the keypad. I felt there was hope in my objective which was this huge urge to succeed in making it to a nice bathroom that was closed. That is success in the simplest way for me, it’s not what other people define it as it’s what you yourself define it as, and it’s not one big day, it’s tiny little things that work out well. I honestly take more pride in this crap story than winning hackathons.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
I think Manfred Von Ritchofen, also known as the Red Baron, an Epic WWI German fighter pilot said it best. I don’t have the quote, but he said something along the lines of he never got into a battle he couldn’t win. He had a huge amount of kills, just from never playing against his odds. I think this approach in business works as well. Don’t pick a fight with a giant, make something that the giant would want and a customer would want. There’s this happy point in vertical markets where nobody is really there, because it’s either too new, too weird or too hard. Patents are your best bet coming from a small business in technology, and you have to be able to raise the capital to do so. Our seed round was insane. Nobody can figure out how we scored that much, but it is really the right people, during the right time, courting the right people and doing an awesome vertical and embracing the giants in our industry.
For more information on Steve Favis and Taechyon Robotics, please visit http://taechyon.com.