Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #10. When Robotics and Windows Phone Get Together.

robert-oschlerRobert Oschler, artificial intelligence and smartphone developer, is currently working on a project called Nanabot, that is a robotics app for Windows Phone owners. Indiegogo campaign will end up on 30th June and the fundraiser is looking for the contributions to enable Windows Phone developers to easily build fun and exciting apps for the RoboMe robot. Robert says, that many of you could reveal the possibilities of robotics apps by combining the toolkit with the amazing set of sensors a Lumia phone has, like the Compass, or NFC tags (proximity sensors), the Gyroscope, Accelerometer and Inclinator, and of course the Camera and Microphone! Combined with the incredible Cortana APIs for speech recognition and text to speech, and it truly is a case where the only limit to your fun, and perhaps a lucrative financial success, is your imagination.
 
So today we are talking about the marketing strategies that Robert uses and why he is so in love with Windows Phone development.
 

Your company is called Android Technologies Inc. How come you are developing applications for Windows Phones? Don’t you find it quite ironic? 🙂
 
It’s certainly a strange twist of fate, but it’s a robotics twist to be sure. It’s Android as in androids, humanoid robots with complex intelligence and not Android phones. I am developing for Windows Phones because the tools Microsoft provides and the people that support the ecosystem behind it are amazing.
 
Getting media attention is quite a big achievement. Could you share your secret how you managed to get published in New York Times?
 
It was a combination of several years of persistence and the strength of the personal robotics market at the time, especially for entertainment robots between the years of 2005 to 2010. I aggressively pursued all the consumer robotics manufacturers for advanced looks at their newest products. The instant I got a new robot to look at I quickly wrote up a review and in many cases, simultaneously published a video review to YouTube. As soon as I published I tipped all the major gadget web sites about my reviews, sites like Gizmodo, Engadget, Wired, Crave, etc. This established me as an authority for the latest news on personal robotics, leading to my robotics web sites RobotsRule.com and Robodance.com ending up at the top of the search results for the major search engines. That raised the visibility of my efforts to the point that a reporter from The New York times looking for experts on robots for home security, contacted me and decided to write me up. Note, your readers can use a service like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to get interviewed on various subjects and potentially get written up and linked to from various publications.
 
Windows Phone developers should consider becoming an authority on the category of apps their apps fit into. Help the major web sites out like Windows Phone Central, etc. by providing them with a steady stream of valuable application tips or reviews, but make sure they are unbiased and useful tips or reviews, not just spam tips to your own apps. Then when you do have a tip about your own apps, they will be much more receptive to taking a look at it and publishing it. Another way to get downloads for your app is to offer to write a “guest article” for a Windows Phone related web site. Most sites usually allow you to include a link in your bio with the article but again, the article must be genuinely useful and not promotional or it will be rejected.
 
What other marketing strategies do you use to promote your applications? Which ones are most effective?
 
Publishing instructional videos to YouTube can be a big help, but remember to promote them to popular user groups and the digital press outlets. Create a video that shows just how useful your app is but remember that It really helps to add a few funny bits to the video.
Even if you have a serious app you can add humor to it. Show people going about their lives without your app and over-dramatize just how awful things are for them. Be creative. For example, here you can watch the video that shows an early demonstration of an app I created that used Skype to control a robot remotely and has nearly a million views on YouTube. There’s a couple of silly parts just to keep the video from being too dry.
 
You should always create at least a micro-site for your best Windows Phone apps with photos, articles, and videos on it to drive traffic to your app. Make sure you track that web traffic with a decent Web Analytics package.  Analyze that traffic for geographic and keyword (search phrase) information and adjust your efforts to your findings.
 
Finally, never forget the value of the occasional press release. Learn how to write one and when you release a new app, publish a press release on it. If you can afford one of the press release distribution services, use them.
 
Few more days to go for your open source robotics project Nanabot on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The market of robotics is not that empty. What is your key vehicle to get on top of it?
 
As far as an affordable consumer robot that does more than the usual “bag of tricks” like guard a room, explore a room making canned simple responses, etc., the market is completely empty. A consumer robot that is mass produced like RoboMe, (the robot Nanabot runs on), and that does all the things Nanabot does simply does not exist. Next year there is Pepper from Sony & Aldebaran, but that’s not until the second quarter of 2015 and that’s a $2000 USD robot. You can buy a RoboMe on Amazon for under $100 USD. Then all you need is a Windows Phone and if you don’t have one, you can get a Lumia 520 off-contract for $69. There’s the amazing Nao robot from Aldebaran, but Nao is about $6900 USD and you have to program it yourself. Nanabot will track faces, play games, chat with you, etc. right “out of the box” when its finished after the fundraiser. Therefore my unique selling position is a truly affordable consumer robot paired with an amazing Windows Phone that gives people a robot that’s a lot more fun and advanced than the current crop of home robots. Remember, none of those other robots support Windows Phone or Windows Store app like Nanabot will if funded.
 
You introduce Nanabot as a game playing, face tracking personal robot. In 2013 the world was crazy about the Oscar winner movie “Her” about operating system that is designed to be as a friend or companion in your everyday activities. Do you see Nanabot’s or Cortana’s future in a similar perspective?
 
Yes I do but some perspective is needed. Nanabot is not a full fledged artificial intelligence personality. That’s still off in the future, but not as far off as some people might think. Microsoft has the resources and talent to be the first to make that happen with Cortana, just like they were the first company to make personal computers a global reality. Perhaps there’s a version of Cortana hidden in a secret lab in Redmond that is that advanced. But if that’s true, they are not letting me talk to her. Nanabot uses the Cortana APIs, a powerful open source chat-bot engine called ChatScript, and quite a few clever tricks to create a virtual personality that’s funny and conversational, but in a limited way and nowhere near the capabilities of “Her” or “Hal (2001)”, or the android in “A.I.”.
 
Note: Developers can learn more about ChatScript here.
 
As you mentioned you want to create something that iOS or Android users can’t get. How come you chose to build it only for Windows Phone users? Are you affiliated with Microsoft in any way? Or are there any other reasons?
 
It’s not that I chose to build it only for Windows Phone users.  It’s my sincerest desire that Nanabot is compelling enough that iOS and Android users will become Windows Phone users to get it. A Lumia 520 off-contract is about $69 USD and that’s a low enough price for someone to get it as a second phone. It will most likely become their “first phone” because it’s such a great smart phone. I chose Windows Phone because the fantastic people at DVLUP showed me just how extraordinary a platform it is for developing complex, powerful apps that users love. That, combined with the rich and capable tools Microsoft provides to developers to make Windows Phone apps, and I fell in love with the Windows Phone development platform. My only affiliation with Microsoft is as an avid fan and user of their development tools and devices.
 
 
We wish Robert all the best with Nanabot and all other projects he is / will be working on. And as we mentioned before the fundraiser closes on June 30th. So we encourage you to go to Indiegogo’s page and contribute now “to help Microsoft to avoid being late to the personal robotics market”.
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit