"I was introduced to Watershed by Ben Trewhella from the Bristol Games Hub. I was showing off my robots and Ben thought that Verity McIntosh (Pervasive Media Studio Producer) might like them, and then boom! Here I am!"
Silas Adekunle is the founder of Reach Robotics, a company he established while still an undergraduate at the University of the West of England.
"We're inventing Mecha Monsters, the world’s first gaming robot - the closest thing you'll get to Pokémon in real life. You control the robots via a smartphone app and they battle each other. The more you play with them, and the more battles they win, the more badges and shields you get. You can customise the way they look and the way they perform."
Before he was introduced to the Pervasive Media Studio Silas hadn't been to Watershed.
"I was a robotics undergraduate student at UWE and I was trying to get my company off the ground. I had an idea and I was looking for ways to bring it to life.
"I knew I wanted to make a living through robotics, which was the only way I could enjoy life! So I set up a programme taking robotics into schools, and although that was very rewarding, the business model wasn’t sustainable so I had to compensate that with something. And I learned that if you want kids to have a lasting interest in this field you have to create products that capture their imagination - and I set out to create things that allow people to have fun and learn at the same time.
"After meeting Verity I applied to the graduate residency scheme and they took me on board."
The Graduate and New Talent residency scheme offered £500, a space to work and the opportunity to develop an idea (Watershed has since invested further resource in this scheme). During his residency, Watershed were collaborating with Bristol Old Vic on Hack the Quartet as part of Bristol Proms, where a group of technologists worked with the Sacconni Quartet on a hack in an attempt to demystify classical music for contemporary audiences, and Silas was invited to take part. His idea for the hack was an ECG monitoring robotics heart, placed on the chest of the performer, so the audience could see and feel how their heart rate changed at different points in the music.
This residency introduced him to the ethos of the Pervasive Media Studio and its residents:
"There are lots of different people working on lots of different projects. Sometimes there are crossovers between people who work creatively – like in sound or music – and technologists or people who work in robotics. All these different talents mix and new things emerge. It’s a very different environment from what I was used to at University. There’s an opportunity to try something new and fail, but you have the support you need around you to try and make it a success."
The next step on Silas’ journey with Watershed was with collaborative research project REACT Hub’s Play Sandbox, where he has been working on Mighty Minis – a series of toys that will get children away from the screen, and will combine a collectible, real world object with its online character.
Silas aims to have Mighty Minis in stores and on the market within a year – and he thinks that Watershed has definitely helped him on that journey.
"What they (Watershed) provide is invaluable – the networking, the way you can bounce ideas around with people. I value the people most. They support you. They motivate you. You give a talk; they turn up and listen. Watershed is like a guiding hand that’s cushioning you through the difficult journey of getting to your end goal.”
Silas was also one of eight projects selected for the REACT Alumni scheme where he has been working with incubator Station 12 to extend their work around Mecha Monsters from both a research and a commercialisation perspective.
In May 2015 Silas headed to San Diego to take part in the prestigious Quallcomm Robotics Accelerator programme – he is one of just 10 companies selected by Techstars in their first ever dedicated robotics cohort. The next chapter for Silas, Reach Robotics and Mecha Monsters is certainly on its way…
- Matthew Austin, October 2014