'Robotapalooza' coming to Westin Edina Galleria

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2012 - 5:20 PM
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Chuck Thorpe, White House assstant director for advanced manufacturing and robotics and Andrew Borene, executive director of Robotics Alley both attended a conference on robotics at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

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Executive Director Andrew Borene reports that Thursday's "Robotics Alley" conference at the Westin Edina Galleria Hotel will attract 300+ attendees, more than double last year's crowd, to learn the latest about breakthroughs in automated technology, establishment of the Twin Cities as a regional robotics center of excellence and industry topics that range from whether military robots save lives to the entertaining-to-creepy world of robot-human interaction.

Attendees also may learn siting plans for the anticipated regional robotics center and business incubator. Nena Street, founder of Global Robotic Innovation Park, said she's in negotiations on several sites, one of which could be announced this week.

Meanwhile, Borene, who also is director of business development/government relations at Edina-based ReconRobotics, will unveil what he bills as the world's "first ever" attempt to comprehensively map the global robotics industry. During a visit last month, Borene said the interactive map already boasted more than 1,300 robotics-related organizations. See www.theroboticsmap.com for details.

Borene, with a background in law, the military and intelligence gathering, said the website will integrate "best practices" from open-source intelligence gathering and ''crowdsourcing'' around the globe to benefit investors, scientists and others interested in a rapidly growing high-tech business sector.

"This thing is going to be much bigger than last year," Borene said of the conference, which was moved to a larger location. "Like a Twin Cities-based 'Robotapalooza' for all of us business, policy and science nerds!"

Speakers will address business and finance, technology and research, policy and ethics. My odds-on favorite so far is a talk about robots taking over the world by Daniel Wilson, author of "How to Survive a Robot Uprising." More information: www.roboticsalley.org.

MAKING POLITICS

A GAME ... REALLY

Kyle Rolfing, a founder of RedBrick Health and Definity Health, has joined Shel Mann at Rocket Surgeon Entertainment. They plan a January launch of "For the People," an interactive game that lets players learn the ropes of Congress and the consequences of decisions, including polling.

Rolfing, 46, president and an investor in Rocket Surgeon, has raised more than $140 million for his ventures over the last dozen years.

"My niche is look at an industry that's ripe for some disruption," Rolfing said. "At Definity, we created 'consumers' of health care. At Red Brick, we created technology and helped consumers get more involved in their health. Rocket Surgeon is in that space that was kind of mindless games. We decided to bring real-world in games, where people can play but also learn from it. We have real-world politics, modeled out, [all the] congresspeople, and you play one of them. You try to get things done, and we incorporate polling so you can get the reaction from your constituents.

"We've got $2.5 million raised in [individual] investor funding. We're testing, getting feedback and we'll incorporate that feedback and we've got a target launch scheduled when Congress convenes in January."

The cast of characters behind www.rocketsurgeonentertainment.com is interesting, including retired and active politicos and Mann, a 25-year entrepreneur in video-game publishing, interactive education tools and training software.

Rolfing said RedBrick, where he brought on a new CEO and additional capital in 2011, has grown to 250 employees and contractors who work with companies and insurers on employee health-prevention plans that are less costly than coping with diabetes or heart disease.

There may be a public stock offering in the future of Minneapolis-based RedBrick.

SHORT TAKES

The be-very-careful approach is the best one for the future of metals mining in the woods and lakes of northeastern Minnesota.

A 30-second ad on election night by the Mining Truth coalition asserts that the mine operators, unlike traditional iron miners in the neighborhood, "have never successfully operated and closed a sulfide mine without polluting local lakes and rivers," according to Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, a coalition member. "Taxpayers in the western United States now face hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up costs related to sulfide mining."

Canada's Duluth Metals, which hopes to be a big player in the area, says it will work with state and federal agencies to "establish policies, programs and practices for conducting its business in an environmentally sound manner."

The anti-mining coalition is at www.miningtruth.org.

The Salvation Army, which raises most of its money to help the least among us during the holiday season, credits U.S. Bank, with key technology support donating the time of one of its iPhone application designers to create a special volunteer application for bell ringers. The goal of the new tool is to help the organization meet its goal of filling 120,000 one-hour time slots available at 400 kettles across the Twin Cities.

The iPhone app will provide users with the ability to learn about the logistics of being a bell ringer, sign up for a volunteer time slot, learn about the Salvation Army and contact the organization. U.S. Bank will match each free download with a $1 donation to the Salvation Army for up to 1,000 downloads. The app is currently available for download through the iTunes App Store.

"This gift ... fits perfectly [with] our strategy to connect to a younger audience and to advance in the social network sphere ... and this technical support comes hand-in-hand with volunteer engagement which is what makes the Salvation Army an army of compassion," said the Army's Maj. Jeff Strickler.

U.S. Bank has surpassed its military hiring goal for 2012 in time for Veterans Day. The big bank, which employs more than 2,300 vets, said they tend to be good, mature hires whose experience and perspective "strengthens our company," said CEO Richard Davis.

Also, this is the second consecutive year that U.S. Bank has been recognized by "G.I. Jobs" as a "Top 100 Military Friendly Employer." The organization highlights companies for military recruiting efforts, the percentage of new hires with prior military service and lenient benefits policies covering employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve.

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