The Missing Middle – Supervised Autonomy for Robots

Plus One Robotics’ CEO Erik Nieves explains why supervised autonomy is the “missing middle” of robotics – a new and untapped market where one human Crew Chief can digitally manage a crew of robots located anywhere in real time.


I want you to think about robotics like this, imagine a spectrum of autonomy. On the left is your robot in Detroit, you know, spot-welding arm on a line. 200 robots on a line, very few people having to maintain them. All the way on the right, surgical robots, one robot one surgeon. On the left, you have a huge force multiplier but no flexibility.

All it can do is what it was programmed to do. On the right, one surgeon, one robot, no force multiplier but a lot of flexibility. Here’s the thing, both of those are successful business models but what’s missing and where the real action is, is the missing middle of supervised autonomy.

One person responsible for many robots and they still have the flexibility that teleoperation model afforded. We call this person responsible for those robots in the diaspora a crew chief. The crew chief manages and maintains those robots remotely.

Having that person at the center is the reason we say, “Robots work. People rule.”