Ally is building a dead-simple, no-code robot arm

“Both my dad and mom had their own business,” Ally Robotics founder and CEO Mitch Tolson tells TechCrunch. “My mom had a sign company. Every single weekend and nights during the week, I was installing neon signs, welding up frames, digging trenches, holes for electrical, all of it.”

The executive says those formative years on construction sites were part of the inspiration behind the Washington-based startup’s formation. The central conceit behind the company is simple enough: What if we could train robots more like we train people?

The company, which pitched today onstage in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt, has developed a combination hardware and software solution designed to make it easier to deploy these automated solutions for those without coding/robotics experience. The perfect example is Ally’s first major partner, Miso Robotics. The company behind the Flippy robotic fry chef signed a $30 million letter of intent to adopt Ally’s technology. That’s a big win at this early stage.

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The startup has also raised $4.7 million in crowdfunding, along with a $6.1 million Series A led by Joe Rodriguez of Pancho Ryan LLC. The company is currently in development for its robot arms, with plans to begin manufacturing late next year. Beyond the already announced Miso deal, the company has additional letters of intent, amounting to around $200,000/month, in a kind of RaaS (robotics-as-a-service) model.

Beyond flipping burgers, Tolson says construction workers — including a roofer — have expressed interest in the platform, along with Bobacino, an automated boba tea bar. Yet another firm has expressed interest in the technology to help paint Christmas ornaments.

The company says it’s developed both hardware and software components in tandem to lower the barrier of entry for non-robotics, creating a no-code solution in the process. Users show the robot how to perform a task by walking them through the steps, be it making a hamburger or affixing shingles to a roof.

“I think that to build a great product that really focuses on solving the real customer need and requirements, you can’t just be a software company or a hardware company,” says Tolson. “You have to do both.”