Season 2, Ep. 8: Exoskeleton Robots for Real People with Tim Swift, Founder & CEO of ROAM

What if you could hit up Foot Locker for a pair of shoes that would allow you to dunk a basketball? Or stop by Walgreens to pick up a robot that would give your grandparents the mobility to continue living at home rather than moving to an assisted living facility? A startup called ROAM is working to create exoskeletons that would afford everyday people the ability to overcome their physical limitations, solving problems around mobility and capability. It may not be the Ironman suit you’ve been dreaming of, but the robotic exoskeletons in development at ROAM would put this groundbreaking human augmentation technology in the hands of everyday people.

ROAM Founder and CEO, Tim Swift, earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley, where he developed the technical foundations for many of the commercial exoskeletons in use today. An early employee at Ekso Bionics, Tim spent six years building robots with medical applications like stroke rehabilitation and paraplegic mobility, writing the software that allowed people to walk again. Problem was, these exoskeletons are 50-pound, $100K machines that only impact a select few people. He grew weary of watching people use the exoskeleton, and then get back into their wheelchairs and ‘roll out the door like it had never happened.’

Tim set out to rethink the way robots are built, making them out of fabrics and plastics so that they are smaller, lighter, cheaper—and ultimately accessible to the general population. He founded ROAM with the intention of developing a new type of exoskeleton that can go with people into the world, allowing them to run farther and faster, rehabilitate from injury, or simply maintain the mobility to sit, stand and climb stairs.

Today, Tim is on a mission to make people move more, and ensure that the body is not a barrier. On this episode, we address Tim’s journey to becoming an entrepreneur, the reasons why he left Ekso to create his own startup, and his vision of success ten years into the future. We cover the small community that inhabits the human augmentation space and how ROAM is helping people run 10% farther and faster. Listen in to understand how ROAM’s potential customers have become an integral part of the development process, and what the company is doing to put robots in the hands of real people.