In many ways, Silas Adekunle is your typical budding Lagos baby boy. In photos, hes most likely to be in casual wear, with a mop of stiff dreadlocks atop his head. Like many young men building the future in the Nigerian tech space, Silas is also breaking new ground in his chosen field; Robotics.
Silas is the founder of Reach Robotics. Based in Bristol, England, the company has created the world’s first augmented reality gaming robots. In 2017, Silas and his team broke new ground by signing an exclusive sales deal with global technology giant, Apple.
Silas was born in Nigeria. He lived here till he was 11 when his family moved to the UK. There, he studied at the University of West England, where he graduated with a 1st Class in Robotics.
He then held a residency, a sort of mandatory internship for graduates, at the Pervasive Media Studio, a community of over 100 artists, creative companies, technologists and academics who explore experience design and creative technology.
Silas' focus project for the duration of the residency was a collection of small robots he called "Mekamonsters"
What are the Meka-Monsters?
Reach Robotics' Mekamons, as they are also called, are small robots that combine augmented reality with real-life action. The plastic robots are controlled using an app that is compatible with both iOs and Android devices.
The app creates the virtual world in which the robot interacts. Gamers can customise their robots using special weapons and shields.
From Pervasive, Silas and the Reach Robotics team were accepted into Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, a program for young technology startups in San Diego, USA.
Silas would later say of his time there,
"I felt we were at a stage where we needed acceleration, we'd built some proof of concept robots and proved that we could solve some of the challenges that were stopping products like this coming to market. For the next stage, we needed mentorship and experience, specifically based around hardware startups and robotics companies."
Techstar's business savvy and the technical experience offered by Qualcomm, one of the biggest tech manufacturing companies in the world, was exactly what they were looking for.
From there, Reach Robotics began to cover ground as a robotics company of its own.
In July 2017, the company raised 7.5 million dollars in funding to help build stronger, better robots.
An Apple a Day
Then, in November, Apple came calling.
"I demoed to (Apple) at GDC. One of our investors set up a meeting and they loved it. At the time, I didn’t know they were going to announce ARKit. When I saw it, it made sense. It was the right direction.”, he told TechCrunch of the lead-up to their Apple deal.
Late that month, Apple announced that it had signed a deal with Reach to exclusively distribute its robots in Apple Stores.
What this means for the young startup is a wider reach, an important nod of approval and importantly, the chance of money.
That Apple is willing to get in bed with such a young company is a sign that they're doing something right.
The distribution end of the deal also means that Reach's robots will be on sale in all of Apple's stores.
As of December 2017, the company has 499 of these worldwide.
For Reach, those are 499 new markets, each with interested buyers and the possibility of thousands and millions of dollars in sales.
Augmented Reality has been heralded as the future of gaming and live experiences.
If the prophecies are to come true, then Silas will be one of the people at the forefront of making this future a reality.