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The Mind in the Machine

Taiga Robotics combines the brain power of a person with the strength and durability of a robot

photo of Ilija
Ilija Jovanovic, Stage 3 Winner

If you want to illustrate how easy it is to adopt a sophisticated new technology, get some kids to demonstrate it. That’s what Taiga Robotics does. With a headset and handheld paddles, any user – whether a 10-year-old child or an industry professional – can become proficient in controlling a remote robot within minutes.

“Taiga offers a human-centric interface,” says COO and Co-founder Ilija Jovanovic. “Instead of using buttons and switches, your body movements direct the robot’s movements in real time. This makes it possible to seamlessly combine AI controlled robots with human decision-making.”

Artificial intelligence robots work well in predictable settings like factories but struggle in dynamic environments where human problem-solving is required. Taiga’s highly intuitive technology provides users with a clear picture of what the robot sees as well as fast and precise control. This is especially useful for completing complex tasks within hazardous environments, such as finding people in collapsed buildings or processing nuclear waste for safe disposal. 

Taiga’s unique interface, responsive design and wide applicability have gotten the attention of an impressive list of current and potential clients. It is conducting pilots with Vale (mining), ABB (automation), Ontario Power Generation (electricity), Ionic (automation), and Promation (automation), and has letters of intent signed with Ionic and Promation. 

“Our previous Esch Awards have helped us get here,” says Jovanovic. “Being in the Esch pipeline has carried us forward from a good idea to a viable company that is expanding exponentially. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.”

Initially inspired by the 2013 science fiction film Pacific Rim – which features humans mentally merging with machines in order to fight giant sea monsters – Jovanovic is now a doctoral student in his final year of Aerospace Engineering. Throughout his work on Taiga, he has been continually surprised by how widely applicable his entrepreneurial skills are.

“It’s kind of wild,” he says. “At this point, I can’t separate out all of the mental steps I go through when approaching a project. All of my lab, zone and start up learning has become organic and combines perfectly with my technical expertise.”

Like your brain power has been combined with the strength of machines?

“Well, not quite,” Jovanovic laughs. “But similar to the way a robot is an advanced tool for human application and ingenuity, yes. An entrepreneurial education provides the tools to see and do things in all areas of life differently and better.”

Jovanovic is grateful for receiving a Stage 3 Esch Award. “Our passion is to keep people safe while working in hazardous environments. Our vision is for robots to help us achieve much more than is possible now. This funding brings us closer to that future.”