Elder-care Idea Wins MBA Bosch Robotic Challenge

An idea for a robot designed to help the elderly stay in their own homes longer garnered first prize for a team of first-year Berkeley MBA students in the Haas School’s second Robotics Business Model Challenge Nov. 29 at Bosch in Palo Alto.

Anthony Baldor, Stephen Fournier, Emily Hahn, Jesus Nieto Gonzalez, and Matt Penfold, all MBA 14, won the $5,000 first prize for their “Uplift” proposal, which addresses challenges faced by the elderly such as mobility, staying in touch with family, and remembering to take medications. “The value proposition of helping the elderly stay in their homes longer is prolonged independence and reduced assistance costs,” says Baldor.

The challenge, sponsored by the Bosch Research and Technology Center and hosted by the European Business Club, offered graduate students from Haas and the UC Berkeley School of Engineering the opportunity to work on cutting edge robotics with Bosch mentors. Students were tasked with thinking about business applications for the next generation of personal robots—leveraging existing Bosch robotics technologies.

The competition launched in early October and attracted ten teams. Three finalist teams were then selected to spend four weeks developing their ideas with the help of the Bosch mentors. These teams, Uplift, second-place GoodFind, and third-place SleepWell, presented to Bosch executives from the company’s Venture Capital and Corporate Research teams.

“The vision of having a personal robot in every household has been around for decades and has inspired many books and movies,” says Borja Carol, MBA 13, co-organizer of the Challenge with Tony Le Verger, MBA 13. But the personal service robotics market currently totals $4.2 billion in the U.S. and is expected to grow to $22 billion in the next three years, Carol notes. "This is no longer only the stuff of science fiction."

“We recently introduced our first robotic product, the autonomous lawnmower ‘Indego’, and the goal of this competition was to develop ideas and business cases for future personal robotics products,” says Benjamin Pitzer, senior research engineer with Bosch. “Working with students from Haas, known for its focus on business model innovation and technology entrepreneurship, really helps us to identify viable business models for the next generations of personal robots.”

Bosch Competition winners pose with a robot and their prize check. Pictured are Matt Penfold, Stephen Fournier, Jesus Nieto Gonzalez, Bosch senior research engineer Benjamin Pitzer, Emily Hahn, and Anthony Baldor.