Step aside EA Sports, Ubisoft etc. Reach Robotics is revolutionizing the world of gaming through Mekamon, the world’s first gaming robots, the stunning Mekamon.
Reach Robotics was founded in 2013 by Nigerian-British, Silas Adekunle, 26, currently the CEO Of Reach Robotics, alongside John Rees (COO) and Chris Beck (CTO). Reach Robotics is an augmented reality gaming company that creates robots for both fun and STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. “Reach is a combination of all my passions; engineering, biology and gaming.” Silas was born in Nigeria and later moved to the UK at the age of 11. He is a robotics technology graduate from the University of the West of England, exiting with first class honors. His resume boasts of work experience from big names like General Electric: Aviation and Infineon. He appeared in Forbes Top 30 under 30 list for European Technology in 2017.
Not much was known of the company, based in Bristol UK, until they signed a major sales deal with Apple Inc. in November 2016 for their first and biggest product yet, The Mekamon. The MekaMon introduces a unique hybrid of virtual and real world play through next level robotics, gaming, and AR; it is a small, lightweight plastic robot that brings the battle out of the gaming consoles and rigs, out into reality. The robots are sure to have gamers stumbling over themselves at Apple stores stocking them. Their agility, flexibility is second to none, and hold on to your hat, even demonstrate emotion in their movement. “It’s got character,” noted Mr Ron Okamoto, Apple’s head of developer relations. Reach Robotics PR and community head, Lexi Sage, describes the robots as, “The gorgeous child of a Pokémon, Robot wars and Transformers, but with AR on top.”
MekaMons are spider-like four-legged robots that players can control via a smartphone using a companion app for augemented reality gameplay. Multiple players can have their MekaMons battle each another. The MekaMons are connected to each other via infrared signals and Bluetooth to allow for multiplayer gaming. “Mekamons straddle on both the real and virtual worlds while taking the gaming experience beyond a player’s screen and turning their sitting room into a limitless robotic battle zone,” explains Silas in a press release. “Players can whip out their iPhone to battle their multi-functional, connected battlebots in the physical and virtual worlds at the same time.”
Since the deal signing, Mekamon sales begun in Apple stores in most parts of USA and UK, and is steadily making its way to other parts of the globe. Silas expressed his excitement and newfound optimism saying, “This is an exciting time for our company as now after years of development work we are finally able to bring Mekamons to customers across the UK and US, and with plans to go global.” They are currently priced at $300.00 and one only needs to install the iOS or Android app that goes controls their robot.
“As the world’s first premium gaming robot, MekaMon fits neatly into the emerging category of mobile augmented reality products,” said Adekunle in the same press release. “By fusing robotics, reality-bending technology and competitive play, we’re offering players a new twist on hardware and video games–a premium robotics product that’s easy to play but very difficult to master.”
Adekunle says the product was initially very popular with male gamers and techies, but parents soon begun buying the robots for their children in a bid to spark interest in STEM.
The idea for the first Mekamon came during Silas’ time teaching STEM during his undergraduate studies. “I began by teaching STEM using the traditional methods but quickly learned that the information retention rate and engagement level was sub-optimal, “ Silas explains in a 2014 blog-post on Robohub, “The decision to pivot to using robotics kits in lessons came after the realization that robotics covers every aspect of STEM. Even at the fundamental level, where student are simply driving the robots forward, for example, it is a lot easier to understand gear ratios when you can see the effects of your gear choices on the speed of your robot compared to that of your friend. Because robots have actual moving parts, flashing lights and sensors that can be combined and programmed, they generate countless hours of fun. I found that as my students’ creations came to life, they could have fun and be educated at the same time. The term for this is edutainment.” However he noted that it has been notoriously difficult for people to come up with products that are both fun and educative, with education preceding fun in priority during game design. Hence, the company decided that entertainment should be their key focus.
The journey to launch was not an easy one for Silas and his team. In a video about Reach Robotics, Silas shows off a plethora of minirobots sitting on a shelf at their studios. Among them, a primitive prototype of the Mekamon sat motionless, looking more like a ball of gum than a robot. “It’s ugly as hell,” exclaims Silas, “Some of my fingerprints are still on there.” The robot is on display as a constant reminder of how far Reach Robotics has come. As he goes further along the shelves, the evolution in the robots is undeniable and astounding.
The company currently has 32 employees and is looking to enlarge its team. Potential employees are required to be sort of ‘nerdy’, into gaming, robotics, science and tech, have sense of humor and be extremely curious.