Bristol-based start-up Reach Robotics will announce today that it’s won a crucial deal with Apple which will see the US technology giant promote its MekaMon robot in its stores and online in the run-up to Christmas. The deal represents a huge breakthrough for Reach, with Apple limiting its selection of pre-Christmas promotions each year to a handful of products and services that its executives are excited about.
The announcement represents the culmination of a four-year development journey for Reach’s founders, who met at university. They bill the MekaMon as “the world’s first real-life gaming robot” – it enables users to play with the crab-like robot via games on their phones and tablets, with both single-player and two-player battle games available.
The technology includes augmented reality functionality, bringing the robot’s immediate environment into the gaming experience. That is likely to prompt comparisons with Pokemon Go, but the MekaMon effectively moves this technology on a step, with a physical device added to the augmented reality-powered virtual gaming space. “Gone are the days of overlaying an image on a real world – augmented reality should look at the world you’re in and then adapt to it,” says Silas Adekunle, the chief executive officer of Reach
A limited production run of the MekaMon last year, which saw the company sell 500 robots, enabled Reach’s team to incorporate user feedback into the product and also helped convince investors to back the company. Reach secured $7.5m of funding in a round led by Korea Investment Partners and IGlobe Partners earlier this year, paving the way for it to launch a full commercial roll-out of its product.
The MekaMon has already won rave reviews from testers and technology sector critics, but Adekunle believes the deal with Apple has the potential to be game-changing for the company.
“We were introduced to Apple by one of our investors, but the moment the leadership team saw the product, we just clicked with them; it seemed to really align with what they’re interested in and focused on right now,” Adekunle says. “We want to make products that entertain, inspire and educate people and that seems to be a good fit with Apple.”
The capital raised earlier this year has enabled the company to put manufacturing and supply chain arrangements in place that will be capable of meeting the likely levels of demand that the Apple partnership is set to drive, with Adekunle insisting Reach has the capacity to cope. “We’ve taken our time to get this product ready and this is what we’ve been working for,” he adds.
Priced at £299.95, the MekaMon will be a premium product compared to many offers in the gaming sector, though the cost is comparable to hardware platforms; Reach’s founders insist they’re committed to developing the robot as a platform in its own right, with users getting access to a broader range of games over time – several are already available and the company is working on further developments.