What gave you the idea to start Remocon.tv and was this a solo project or do you work with partners?
Before answering this, there are two aspects of the site. Remocon.tv is a streaming platform that lets anyone connect robots for others to control, and it is monetized so that streamers can have users pay them to control robots or subscribe to them with monthly payments. The other aspect is the same platform but for private business use cases. Now onto the answer:
Had the idea for a very long time and was basically waiting for it to be made into reality by other people. After years of such it never really did and I eventually had the knowledge and resources to implement it myself. The main idea isn’t just to have a streaming platform but more of a distributed control system for robots. It is a logical next step in technology that I basically expected to happen.
If you think of even something like drone delivery, people have been waiting for some big tech conglomerate to build it and take over the market, but they have been dilly-dallying for years and years without really implementing anything. It was the same type of thing with this. Technologically it is all doable and it has been for a while. Someone can build a local drone delivery service or robot delivery service using our platform and we would be happy to work with them on it. It takes both somebody local to make business connections and maintain robots when they break, and us to keep the platform itself strong, but technologically and cost-wise it is all doable.
I realize now that a lot of technological progress can be done by individual developers. Different people work on different parts, but the end result is very advanced technology. There isn’t a point in waiting for existing large tech companies to do it, it’s a deep-seated idea that people need to get over.
Did you have a background with Twitch or another streaming platform?
No. Part of learning how to do this involved learning what streaming protocol Twitch used and I was surprised to see how far it is from ‘real time’. I’ve watched plenty of online content that was live streamed, but usually that is after it is saved and uploaded separately. It helps to know the culture but that’s not that far off from other niches of internet culture.
The fees are currently set at 30% to pay for your bandwidth, site hosting fees, profit margin etc. what do you think the potential yearly profits of a streamer who sets up a robot could make on your site after their expenses (keeping robot online, internet costs, consumables)?
It’s directly tied to what kind of audience they can bring. With something like twitch there are a lot of barriers to entry and a lot of friction. People don’t think about it but you basically have to stream for a few weeks, build an audience, then apply for affiliate status, and even after that you can lose the partnership over a slip-up. We understand the requirement for moderation but their system is already an outdated process. With ours you just sign up and can get paid proportionally to money you bring in.
It would be unfair to estimate an income; you can look at the people on Patreon who make the most and the least, there are a lot of people who make nothing because they don’t get an audience to subscribe to them. The upper end potential is high but it would be unfair to promise that since the distribution would be the same as with all other platforms, high upper end potential but also a lot of people who make nothing. What I can say is fair is that the revenue is split fairly, and that’s done through the payment processor.
For the paintball marker and remote control cars online currently, the main costs are just electricity which is practically free. The remote control cars have a docking station so they can charge when they are not in use. They can stay online 24/7 barring when the cars flip over or aren’t set to charge. The paintball marker shoots paintballs, but those require payment to be unlocked, so money is only spent by the streamer when money is made by the streamer.
Could you give a more specific example of how someone could build a robot?
If someone wants a specific cost breakdown of a simple project to get started:
$30 for a cheap remote control car from a local store or online
$1 for a L298N mini motor controller
$15 for a Raspberry Pi Zero with Wifi
$1 in wires
$10 for a stronger battery
Total $62 one-time cost
Let’s say you get five people to subscribe to you at $10/month and they play with the car at their leisure, it’s not like they will all be playing with it constantly, they will play for a few minutes at a time and switch out. Now in the first month you’ve already almost made that money back and you can build more cars and get more people to subscribe to you. That’s the idea. Imagine setting up more cars or other robots and trying to build an audience of a thousand, that would be cool. Also keep in mind that a lot of people subscribe to support streamers, not because they get things in return, so it’s encouragement to do things just because they are cool to do. There are streamers on Twitch and content creators on Patreon who are rich and they provide a lot less to their audience than the control of physical robots in real time, so imagine getting both.
From there you can do things like get an TP4056 charging chip ($1) so that the car can charge itself, an MT3608 step up converter ($1) to more easily provide power to the Raspberry Pi, a magnetic charger cable ($5), now you can set up a docking station for the cars to sit and charge when nobody is using them. That is scalable. If you can find an audience to come subscribe to you so they can play with and race your cars then that’s the idea. It’s a fun thing to do yet you don’t really see it anywhere. Also if any of the electronics sound intimidating we are happy to walk you through it.
What do you think are some untapped robot niches that platform hasn’t seen yet that you want to see (or don’t want to see) and what are the site platform limitations (e.g. music dj lasershows, racing drones, boxing robots, etc.)?
There are a lot, which is why the platform was built. One thing I want to do is race real life cars, but I understand if that is a way away. That was the original idea, car races but with no danger to drivers or audiences, pure technological competition. If anyone wants to help set this up as a sort of offshoot of folk racing then feel free to reach out.
What has been tested is robotics, hobby grade remote control vehicles, and quadcopters. People can fly drones with it. It would be in self-level mode and it would need extra space for clearance since latency exists but technologically it has been tested and it works.
Another one is battle bot type robots, that is completely possible if somebody is willing to host an arena for it. My suggestion would be to use smaller cheaper robots for that kind of setting. We were trying to reach out to a local battle-bot-type operation but weren’t able to reach them yet.
We also reached out to three local paintball arenas. All three of them said yes when we asked them if they were okay with us installing an internet-controllable paintball marker at their facility but we struggled getting insurance for it. One of them was also outdoors which made it harder to provide power, internet, and protection from weather for 24/7 streaming. If somebody wants to connect with a paintball arena near them to set up an internet-controllable paintball marker then we can help with all of the technology. You would have to take liability and get insurance. If you can find a company to insure you then likely we would sign up with the same one just to be safe and then it should all work. We don’t think that insurance is impossible to set up either, we think we just haven’t reached out to enough of them yet.
You mentioned new streamers need to go through a KYC process in list format what is needed for people to get onboarded and streaming (e.g. driver’s license, Remocon Kortex, Raspberry Pi, widget of choice, etc.) and what platform is the best way to reach you for help with onboarding?
There is a discord server specifically for this, people are welcome to join it to ask questions. You can also email us directly, the email address is on the website but for now it’s a bit hidden to prevent spam. The discord server link is https://discord.gg/CqueFZhYBf but if it changes just find it on the website.
The KYC process is done by the payment processor and it is automatic. In theory (unless things change in the future) you can sign up, get approved to accept payments, and make money without needing our approval, it’s all automatic. That said our documentation isn’t great yet so coming to ask us how to do things might be necessary, again we are happy and willing to help.
I noticed the cryptocurrency tab has Remocoin but goes to a 404 page currently did you want to comment on that future project?
It is a cryptocurrency to go alongside the robotics platform. It’s not good to contribute to the cryptocurrency hype cycles, but it is there.
Is there anything else you would like to tell people about the project?
To summarize, it is a livestreaming platform where people can connect robots and where other people can control them in real time. It is very flexible, robots can be based on Raspberry Pi, Jetson Nano, similar computers, and microcontrollers. It also works to control hobby grade remote control vehicles and drones. There is documentation online, however we also encourage you to reach out to us directly to connect their devices.
In the streaming platform, streamers can charge users to pay both for one-time tasks and for monthly subscriptions. This way streamers can make money by building their robot operation and exploring new things to do with robotics.
Besides streaming is the business aspect, we want to welcome any business that can either benefit from robotics or that is already robotics-based to reach out to us so we can mutually benefit. There is a lot that can be done with this platform so we encourage people to reach us and arrange it.