‘IT businesses are mainly focused on software. Hardware development in our country takes root worse’
The development director at Robots Can Dream on technologies of the future and IT businesses in Russia
Will the border between real life and virtual reality fade away? When will we be able to modify the human body with the help of technologies? What’s the development pace of Russian IT businesses? Are they willingly digitalised and investing in R&D? What does Tatarstan lack to improve the business climate and attract high-tech companies? Development Director of Robots Can Dream IT company from Tatarstan Anatoly Kiyashko is answering Realnoe Vremya’s questions.
Airship drone, medtech and CES in Tatarstan
Anatoly, how has the company changed over the five years of its existence in the market? What projects are you working on now?
At the beginning of the journey, the company mainly dealt with mobile VR apps. However, in the last two years, we’ve been working on hardware development. As for current projects, I can talk about three interesting areas. For instance, an electric mountain board — a board that can drive off-road — is developed now. Its speed will be up to 60 km/h and it has an independent suspension and universal remote control.
We are also creating an airship drone for industrial monitoring and control of power engineering and petrochemical facilities. Drones usually can’t be in the air for more than 1,5-2 hours, while our product will allegedly fly from four to seven days with no need to go down to recharge.
Medtech is the third area. We work with doctors who want to change the world, improve and simplify work in this field. They come to us with their ideas, we study them and then start to create prototypes. We have recently completed one of such projects, and the company that was the client has already received the second stage of financing, which is about hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In general I would pay attention to the fact that Tatarstan, unfortunately, doesn’t host big electronics exhibitions such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona or CES in Las Vegas. Russia in general has very few such events
How would you evaluate the business climate for IT companies in Tatarstan? You maybe have some wishes to improve it.
We work with different regions and countries. And the only thing I can say that there are pros and cons everywhere. For instance, we have recently considered where it was possible to produce a small batch. And it turned out that it is quite profitable to do it here, in Kazan (much cheaper and closer to the client).
In general I would pay attention to the fact that Tatarstan, unfortunately, doesn’t host big electronics exhibitions such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona or CES in Las Vegas. Russia in general has very few such events, though we can’t help but note Open Innovations or SPIEF, but again, it is in Moscow, Petersburg or Sochi. Kazan doesn’t have it at the moment. I think it is the only obstacle. We often talk with clients via videoconferencing (if we can’t go to the USA or Europe) or fly to Moscow.
New players, business digitalisation and problems of R&D
What do you think about the current situation of IT businesses in Russia? There was a feeling a couple of years ago that new interesting projects appeared almost every day, while now the pace seems to slow down.
In my opinion, the euphoria hasn’t disappeared — a lot of new, interesting teams are appearing now. At the same time, there is a problem — IT businesses are mainly focused on software. Hardware development in our country takes root worse, as there is Silicon Valley and there is China where it is possible to develop, check and launch products.
How would you assess the digitalisation level of Russian businesses?
We talk with companies that at first sight might seem very old school, however, in fact, the state of affairs is completely different. For instance, we can hear many to say that Russian Post’s delivery is bad. But a handful knows that the company built the biggest modern logistic centre in Tatarstan. They gradually introduce modern technologies, and their speed gradually accelerates. They haven’t had R&D either until recently, however, the situation has changed, and now the company is recruiting a team for it. It is a very good signal proving that even such big companies can change and improve their skills in digitalisation.
We talk with companies that at first sight might seem very old school, however, in fact, the state of affairs is completely different. For instance, we can hear many to say that Russian Post’s delivery is bad. But a handful knows that the company built the biggest modern logistic centre in Tatarstan
Generally speaking, the situation in every sector is different. A lot is introduced in petrochemistry and automotive engineering. Retailing is developing in leaps and bounds: take the same Magnit that opened one of its innovative stores with a high digitalisation level of processes in Tatarstan.
What about the situation with businesses’ investments in R&D you have already mentioned? Some experts notice a fall in costs here.
I think that costs, on the contrary, are rising. Here, the problem is that nobody can say how much one needs to create and complete R&D. In fact, we always apply a model of time and materials. R&D in both Siemens and smaller companies works similarly, give or take: a lot of tests and trials, then we get the result that is either as close to the expectations as possible or isn’t close to them at all. I think that Russian companies hardly invest in this area, as this is something new to them. Everybody got used to working with fixed prices: “Come here and say how much it is”. However, due to a wide margin of error, the correct variant for R&D is the time and materials model.
Merger with VR, dangerous AI and technologies of the future
As you already said, the company actively dealt with VR and AR. This is why I want to know your opinion: how can these technologies transform in the next 10 years given that sudden rise that has taken place in the last decade? How closely will they be connected with our life?
A prototype of an AR lens, which was maybe become a real gadget in some 15 years as soon as the issue of power is resolved, has been recently shown on CES. Today the key trend is that all devices we have now are becoming smaller.
As for the integration of VR and AR into real life, these technologies will likely complement it in some sectors. As a parent, it is hard for me to imagine that my children will completely go into virtual reality in several years, and I will have to go there to talk with them. This will probably be regulated organically.
Video analytics and everything linked with machine vision will gain in popularity soon. And, of course, unmanned flying devices — they are experiencing a big boom now
Technologies enter our life with a certain goal, and we don’t necessarily need to dissolve in them. Yes, they will become cheaper and more available, but I don’t think that we will completely obey them. Virtual reality in general isn’t the danger. We should probably pay attention to artificial intelligence, as an equal debate comes arises here: if we will win it or it will win us.
Is Elon Musk’s stance who calls AI the major threat to humankind close to you?
It is a threat to humankind, without doubt. At the same, we should understand that if we won’t create it, somebody else will certainly do it.
What technologies do you think will rapidly develop in the next 10 years? For instance, I can assume that the 5G will gain traction soon.
I agree with your assumption — this area will certainly grow in Russia.
In general I think that innovative rises in development will happen at the intersection of several sectors. For instance, biotechnologies and equipment: their merger can, for instance, restore human sight or the ability to walk. I would also name exoskeletons.
Also, video analytics and everything linked with machine vision will gain in popularity soon. And, of course, unmanned flying devices — they are experiencing a big boom now. We will certainly see air taxis in big cities in the next 10 years: first of all, probably not in Russia, but we have our concepts too.