AMP Robotics founder and CEO Matanya Horowitz has long been interested in robotics and their potential for helping society. In this edition of Faces of ISRI, Horowitz discusses his background, how Jewish folklore helped inform his interest in robotics, and the potential that artificial intelligence (AI) has in the recycling industry.
Where did your interest in robotics begin?
Ever since I was a child I’ve been interested in robotics and the origins of intelligence. While I was studying for my PhD in Controls and Dynamical Systems at California Institute of Technology, I saw some of the major results in the subject now known as deep learning. A series of algorithmic breakthroughs led to machines learning how to see for the first time, roughly as well as a human. After graduating, I wanted to find places where this technology could be useful, and I found that in the world of recycling.
How did that interest in robotics lead to the launch of AMP Robotics?
It seemed like the recycling industry had the biggest need for this technology. When I visited recycling facilities, I talked to people about the various issues they were facing. They told me about issues with the quality of the materials being separated out during the recycling process, and there were always high rates of staff turnover in the facilities. I believed that these issues could be solved with technology, so I started educating myself on recycling. I bought these massive five-inch-thick textbooks to learn about the industry, and I asked questions. I learned there was a tremendous opportunity to shift the economics of recycling if you could have a next generation of sorting technology, which is what we develop.
You were profiled by one of your investors, Sequoia Capital, and you talked about the folktale in Judaism of the golem. Can you tell us about that folktale and the impact it’s had on your career?
In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being entirely created from inanimate matter (usually clay or mud). In the stories, a Rabbi would bring the golem to life to perform a task such as protecting the community. This made me think about how influential robotics could be, and it really emphasized just how high leverage a tool robotics could be. It also sparked ideas about how helpful robotics could be to a community and the larger society, which I found exciting.
What do you enjoy most about being an ISRI member?
We’ve been interacting with ISRI basically since the company started. When the company first launched, ISRI members helped us with whatever we needed, so as soon as we had the funding, I made sure we joined. We’ve really enjoyed interacting with some of the core leadership of ISRI. There are very smart people who understand the industry and have a strong and far-reaching perspective in terms of what’s possible. I always enjoy those interactions when we get to the heart of different issues in the recycling industry.
What are you looking forward to most about ISRI2022?
We’re speaking on a session, so we’re excited about that. We’re happy to participate in the planning process of this session and to address issues that are top of mind for attendees. We’re excited to engage with attendees and see what issues we can help with in today’s recycling landscape.
2021 was a big year for AMP Robotics. The company was named to the Denver Post’s Top Workplaces 2021, and it installed its first AI-guided robotics systems in the UK and Ireland. What lessons will you take from your accomplishments in 2021 that you can implement in 2022?
The idea that AI can have a really big impact in the recycling world. We’ve always believed that AI could be extremely beneficial to the world of recycling, but we’re seeing that’s the case more and more every day. We’re going to continue finding deep pain points in the industry where AI can have an impact and pursue those opportunities. We’ll also be looking to hire more people to expand our team.
Photos courtesy of AMP Robotics.