How a bootstrapped venture, Sirena Technologies, is looking to break even and make a dent in the education and smart home space
Historically, robots were mainly used for automation on factory floors and in research facilities. But advancements in technology have now made it possible to develop ‘humanoids', which more closely resemble humans, for a wider variety of applications. Sirena Technologies, a startup based in Bengaluru, operates in the robotics and IoT space and is looking to make humanoid robots augment the quality of learning in classrooms, by functioning as assistants to teachers.
Founded in 2013 by Hariharan Bojan, Sirena Technologies' home-grown robotic-platform aims to work with technical institutions and schools to help students interact with robotics from a young age, and also engage in a more participative learning experience.
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Hariharan Bojan with Nino[/caption]
While the goal is to venture into other categories and product lines in the future, Sirena's two main focus areas currently include-
Sirena Knowledge and Information Program (SKIP)
Nino is a humanoid that can talk, walk, dance, sing, play and work wonders with its inherently-built intelligence. So with custom modules for students of different age groups, Sirena is in the process of working with schools through a managed services model, where it will set up labs for them and help and train teachers and students in working with Nino.
Nino can also be programmed to deliver stories, recite poems and make learning more hands-on. Sirena has been constantly taking inputs from experts in the educational space and also has an in-house team of educators who work on content aligned with the curriculum of different schools. Their pitch for schools is clear and Hari noted that their goal is not to replace the teacher in any way but for their bots to play a secondary role. Sirena's USP and positioning is,
On one hand, Nino acts as an assistant-teacher and on the other, it works with each child as a buddy.
Coming under the smart-home product category, Sirena's second main product is Choral. It lets users stream music from their phones or other sources directly from the cloud while also being able to tweak lights along with the audio for a synchronous experience.
Weighing about 437gm, Choral supports different audio formats like AAC, WAV to Mp3 and FLAC. Currently up for pre-orders on their website, different variations of Choral are priced between Rs 8,000 and Rs 13,000.
Choral is being integrated with one of India's leading music streaming services and the team is exploring partnerships with others in this space. They also soon aim to list their products on e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon and also venture into offline retail outlets like Croma and Reliance Digital.
Leveraging robotics in education could provide students with a more adaptive learning experience, more individual attention and it could also help students with special needs, and better cope with school curriculum. Alphabet, Samsung, Rethink Robotics, Softbank Robotics and Toyota are some of the established giants that have keen interest in this space. A report from Purdue University notes,
“When applied to education, robotics(and simulators) can change the way students learn and ultimately create a more knowledgeable and well-adjusted student.”
Short and long-term visions
Sirena Technologies' short-term focus for 2017 is to mark its footrprint in the educational space with Nino, enter the smart home segment with Choral and also break even this year after three years of heavy focus on R&D and manufacturing.
As they are bootstrapped, Hari joked that the pressure on them is not very high and they can afford to set reasonable targets instead of going after unreasonable goals, which is generally the case when a startup needs to justify its high valuation and give quick returns to investors.
In the future, Sirena aims to look at sectors beyond education and Hari noted that they are in talks with Priyank Kharge, Minister for IT & BT, Science & Technology & Tourism, Government of Karnataka, and his team, to explore specific use cases in the tourism and hospitality space where a more life-sized version of Nino could be developed to assist people in those industries.
Website- Sirena Technologies
Camera person: Nataraj
Editor: Anand Prasad