Silicon Valley lab jumpstarts innovative products

Global Business

Silicon Valley has become famous for its tech accelerator model of incubating some of the world’s most promising startups in exchange for an equity stake – and then working together to get venture capital funding.

But there’s one lab there that’s taking the opposite approach. It assembles teams to build great products and then forms the companies afterward.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

At this mysterious downtown San Francisco warehouse, Otherlab, an independent research lab, is filled with inventors and engineers working on projects that most other labs would never dream of. “This is actually the world’s first inflatable robot, this robot is entirely made of fabric and filled with air, so there is literally nothing inside,” said Kevin Albert, founder and CEO of Pneubotics.

Albert said the soft robot actually helped inspire the robot in Disney’s Big Hero Six. Thinking differently to solve problems is in Otherlab’s DNA, like for example, how to overcome the space limitations of bulky hydrogen tanks. Otherlab’s techies get paid salaries, but with expectations that the projects they create will spin off into companies.

One of the startups that spun out from Otherlab is called Roam. They’ve created an exoskeleton that is actually composed of Nylon and fabric. All you have to do is add air and it gives your elbow 25 percent more torque. And in tests, it’s doubled one’s endurance.

Founder Tim Swift is a perfect example of the type of thinkers who come to Otherlab. For years, he helped build exoskeletons for one of the market leaders – Ekso Bionics-but still felt he could do better with a radically different approach.

Mark Niu sat down with Roam founder Tim Swift. He began by asking Swift how OtherLab differs from a traditional technology accelerator.