Reframe Systems is focused on developing robotic micro-factories for building net zero homes faster and cheaper than traditional construction methods, with plans to reduce costs by 50% by 2025. In this episode of the Futurist Society Podcast, host Dr. Awesome sits down with Vikas Enti, CEO and co-founder of Reframe Systems. They discuss the groundbreaking advancements of robots in construction aimed at creating net-zero homes and the social impact these innovations can have on housing affordability and climate change. Discover how small footprint robotic micro-factories are revolutionizing the construction industry by making homes more affordable, efficient, and environmentally friendly. Tune in now to learn more about the future of construction and how you can be part of the change towards sustainable living. 

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here

The Future Of Robots That Build Houses – A Conversation With Vikas Enti

Hi everybody. Welcome back to the Futurist Society, where, as always, I have an exciting guest. Today we have Vikas Enti, who is the CEO of Reframe Systems. It’s a robotics company. And so, you know, I’m really excited about that because I love robotics. We’re talking about the present, but we’re also talking about the future. Thanks, Vikas, for joining us. Tell us a little bit about what you are doing with the robots over Reframe.

The Future Of Robots That Build Houses - A Conversation With Vikas Enti

The Shift to Net-Zero Homes

Hi, Doctor Awesome, thank you so much for having me on the podcast. And hello, everyone. My name is Vikas Enti. I’m the CEO and founder of Reframe Systems. We’re developing really small-footprint, low-cost robotic microfactories that allow us to build net-zero homes a whole lot faster and a whole lot cheaper than traditional onsite construction. And we solely exist so that we can unlock climate-friendly homes as a basic human right. And to do that, we need to significantly improve the productivity of construction. And I’m happy to talk more about how we got there.

Yeah, I mean, I know that the background that you have is from working in robotics at Amazon. And I know that you made this transition to specifically robots that build homes. What made you go in this direction, and also, what made you add this net-zero aspect to it? Because I think it’s on everybody’s mind that climate change is a big problem. But why did you focus on this aspect of climate change?

Background in Robotics and Amazon

Definitely, it’s actually a slightly long journey for how I got here. So if it’s okay, maybe I’ll kind of zoom out a little bit and zoom back in time. So, as you mentioned, I spent about eleven years and started off at a company called Kiva Systems, which got acquired to become Amazon Robotics. We were developing very flexible mobile robotic solutions for automating warehouses. So I did that for almost eleven years, ending my career on the executive team. There are about half a million robots deployed across 70 buildings across the world, to my name. And it was a wonderful journey. I learned a whole bunch and picked up a lot of really unique skills in how you think about scaling robotic systems. How do you scale the aspect of integrating people with robots and actually getting significant economic and social value out of that process? Towards the tail end of my career, I became a new dad, and I have wonderful three-year-old twin daughters now.

I have a two-year-old, I’m right there with you.

So you get it.


Addressing Climate Change

And yeah, I mean, my girls arrived eight weeks early, so I got to spend… I mean, they’re perfectly healthy, happy babies now, but we had a lot of time in the NICU with them. I started reading this book, Speed and Scale by John Doerr, during one of those days. Climate change was always something in the back of my mind, but I didn’t really understand how I could play a direct role beyond that of an individual. Could I do something more to affect climate change? I think that book really helped formulate my thinking, making it clear that there are sufficient technologies and systems available today that can actually help reduce our emissions. The challenge is deploying those solutions at scale and doing it quickly to realize those benefits.

That’s the whole premise of the book, and it got me thinking, “Okay, I get scale. That’s something I’ve done before.” So, what else could I look at where I can apply this lens, or what systems need to scale quickly, where I can play a unique role with my skill set and bring that to market? That search took about a year. Initially, I looked at regenerative agriculture because soil as a carbon sink is an excellent space. My grandparents were farmers, so I thought, “Hey, maybe that’s the first place I should look at.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the economics of the systems I was looking at work out, so it wasn’t a viable business case.

The next top contributor of interest was construction. A fun, unrelated fact is that my last name actually translates to “home” in my mother tongue. So we could always joke about construction as a pathway, but it was never top of mind as a career. But as I started looking at the construction industry, I realized the emissions from our homes are significant. An important fact to realize is our homes actually emit more carbon emissions annually than our cars. About 27% of all global carbon emissions come from our homes, which is more than the transportation industry. This has to do with, a long time ago, a lot of it being about lighting homes. The LED transition has reduced that consumption, but today, most energy use comes from heating and cooling homes. If you’re using natural gas to heat your home, your air conditioning, all of these loads add significant emissions directly from your home or from the energy grid supporting your home.

It became clear that we have a huge target here. What needs to happen to reduce emissions from the built environment? While looking through this, two other social issues also became relevant. We have a huge growing housing shortage, not just in the US but globally. In the US today, we have a shortage of about 7 million homes, and we build roughly 1.6 million homes a year. So there’s a lot of catch-up that needs to happen.


Another interesting thing to note is the workforce in construction has been dwindling. There was a mass exodus during the 2008 crisis, and there haven’t been many new entrants into the trades. To the point where one out of three tradespeople will be retiring in the next ten years.


So we have the potential for a very fundamental shift in the skilled labor pool for construction. We have a 7 million housing shortage, and 27% of all emissions come from the construction space. I thought, “Great, now we have a trifecta of problems.” What does a solution need to look like to both reduce emissions, address housing, and tackle the labor challenge? This pointed to a clear solution. If you decompose the layers, it becomes evident that the path to decarbonizing our homes is well understood. We can either convert existing homes to become all-electric, or ensure all new homes are built to net-zero standards. The science to electrify a home is well understood. With the advent of heat pumps and the drop in cost of solar and battery backup, it’s feasible to drive costs down and make it viable.

Even though we’ve seen almost an eight-fold reduction in the cost of solar, and heat pumps have dropped in cost by about half in the last ten years, the cost of constructing a home has doubled in that time. So the question became, what’s really happening here? Looking deeper, it was evident this is an issue of process inefficiency. If you take a step back and consider the mix of labor cost versus material cost for a home, it’s surprising that 50% of the cost of a home is direct labor. In the industries I’ve been part of, and generally in manufacturing, less than 10% of the cost of a manufactured product is labor. So if you’re buying a car, less than 10% of the cost is labor. But with homes, 50% being labor, it was clear there’s an opportunity to improve labor efficiency to reduce that cost burden. Reducing that cost burden makes it more economically viable to absorb the cost of better materials, heat pumps, solar, and batteries. We can achieve a net-zero home built at the cost parity of traditional homes, or ideally, even cheaper.

By solving for labor efficiency, we can also blunt the impact of the growing labor shortage and the aging population in the construction trade. My skill set includes designing novel, low-cost robotic systems to improve labor efficiency. So I wondered if there was a pitch here. Those two things converged quickly, allowing me to build conviction that making net-zero homes a reality for all was where I was going to spend the next decade or two of my life.

The Future Of Robots in Construction - A Conversation With Vikas Enti

Wow, that’s cool. So let’s talk a little bit about where you’re at right now. Have you been able to bring the cost down so that it’s competitive with the existing market?

Yeah. So we’re about 18 months into our journey right now. We just set up our factory in Andover, Massachusetts. We just shipped out our first project in Arlington, Massachusetts last Thursday. So we’re still in the very early journey, but even at that scale, our very first project is actually priced to be about 20% lower than where the market’s pricing a similar project.

That’s great.

And the roadmap we’re on aims to bring our internal cost curves down to be 50% lower than where the market is by the end of 2025. How we price this will depend on our business strategy for the markets we’re entering, but at least from a construction cost standpoint, we’re fundamentally driving it down. I’m happy to share more on how we do that.

Well, I did a little bit of research independently, and I liked how there was one part of your website that had a gradient with single-family homes on one side going all the way up to mid-rise homes. The amount of variation is impressive. As someone who’s not in the field, I didn’t even think about that. The area you’re focusing on is like mid-rise and just below that. I think that’s genius because the ability to make a quadruplex or something similar allows you to house people at a higher rate, getting more people in there. That’s really what America needs right now. Housing prices are so expensive. We both live in Massachusetts, and it’s so expensive to buy a house these days. 

For many people, the traditional idea of an American future, where they have a house and a two-car garage, is just not available to them. I think the housing market needs some innovation, and I like where you’re going with this. Let’s talk a little bit about robotics, though, because that’s something I’m particularly interested in. The robotics are doing the manufacturing, but is the actual installation of the house done by traditional workers, or is it also the robots that are building the house?

Innovations in Home Construction

That’s a really good question. I’ll also touch a little bit on the types of buildings we’re focused on. In general, we’re going after what we call “missing middle” housing. This includes adding accessory dwelling units and building duplexes and quadruplexes to increase density in existing neighborhoods. Our building system allows us to go up to a four-story-high structure. We’re largely focused on projects with one to 20 units in existing transit-oriented neighborhoods. Our approach, from design to occupancy, is centered around three main tenets.

One is, how do we decompose our buildings into highly reusable components? How can we standardize things down to similar bathroom types, kitchen types, bedroom types, and wall components so that we’re always able to manufacture those pretty consistently and reuse them for every single project? My goal is that we have the same bathroom that’s on our ADU all the way to our quadruplex. So this is where we start getting certain efficiencies in the learning curves for how we build them, the material, and the supply chain that we get to maintain. And also design efficiencies because we’re not having to reengineer it every single time we build it. That’s one piece of the pie. And that’s important because that then enables the other two things we need to do. 

So once you’ve got this really good library of components, the decision matrix for us is: what do we automate, and then what do we augment? And the automation path for this is clear. Initially, we said, “Anything that’s dull and repetitive, let’s automate that.” Speaking to a whole bunch of carpenters in the trade, including apprentices, we partnered with a trade school called Forge. They’ve been amazing for us to work with. A lot of the feedback from the carpenters was that we would all love to do finish-level work that’s more satisfying.

Human Augmentation in Robotics

Framing is very repetitive. We don’t enjoy that. And it just so happened that for the technology radius we’re at, we’re, like, great. So we can actually start focusing on framing. Today, our robots frame walls. By the end of the year, they’ll be sheathing walls, and we aim to do the same for floors and ceilings. The goal is for our robotic automation to handle framing, sheathing, and finishing, including interior studs, insulation, drywall, finish, and paint. This covers roughly 20% to 40% of the construction workflow, and our goal is to achieve this level of automation in our factories.

And I want to be clear about this, because our goal is to never get to 100% automation. To me, it always seems nice when you look at it from an outside perspective to say that we should have lights-out factories where it’s fully automated. We try to realize that vision at Amazon when we’re trying to build robotic fulfillment centers. And very quickly, it became almost a fool’s errand because you realized that you could get up to 80% off the Pareto pretty quickly, trying to take care of all the edge cases and everything else. The amount of R&D doesn’t make sense.

Yeah, it becomes exponentially difficult—an asymptote. I totally agree with that. And honestly, I think that’s the future that all of us want to live in. I think that there is a big hesitancy that people have towards robotics in general, not just construction robots, but I feel like the idea of giving them the freedom to do whatever they want at 100%. And I think that a lot of people are on board with exactly what you’re talking about. Like, let the robots do the mundane stuff. I would love it if we’re transitioning this to the house. I would love for a robot to exist that does my laundry, right? But when it comes to picking out my outfit, I think that’s something that I want to do. I don’t want the robot to do that, you know? And so that idea was recently presented to me in another podcast from another robotics researcher, and they were saying it was the idea of having a “cobot”  rather than a robot. It’s like this cobot. So, like, you’re managing a team of robots, and you just make sure that they’re making the right decisions and that you’re there for quality control. Is that kind of how it’s playing out at your company?

The Future Of Robots in Construction - A Conversation With Vikas Enti

Yeah, that’s a really, really good point. And this kind of gets me to the third point I was talking about, which is augmentation. So we have base-level automation, which is, effectively, a person feeds the raw materials needed to the robotic work cell. Out comes a wall, a ceiling, or a floor, and there’s a subset of tasks where we’re relying on augmentation. Where can we have a person be augmented with something as simple as an iPad that has digital instructions on it all the way through a cobot that’s actually helping them take care of certain finishing tasks? We’re currently pretty heavily invested in software-based augmentation, and this is really important. 

Usually, the robot always gets the limelight, because that’s the easiest thing to talk about and visually understand. But we see a significant value in the approach we’re taking with this augmentation. So, as an example, if you’re in construction today, you typically get large paper drawings that have 2D lines on them, and you need the skill set that gets developed over years and years of actually having built stuff to understand and interpret the 2D drawings on this line, right? Like, what is the stud spacing? I have to frame stuff up for my carpenter if I’m an electrician or a plumber. Based on the 2D line drawing, I’m having to then make a decision on how I’m going to route the circuits and where my plumbing systems are going to go. Those are the skill sets that are getting harder to find. And those are the skill sets that are unfortunately aging out. So we took a stance to say, could we actually move away from actually needing paper drawings to begin with, but also rethink how we submit and how we provide these instructions to our trades? And we’re starting to call them “super trades” because we’re actually having our car printers also do the work of an electrician or plumber, where instead of providing just simple 2D drawings on a sheet of paper, we’re trying to convert those instructions into. If you remember the last time you assembled a Lego kit, you had really beautiful 3D and very simple instructions in a Lego manual. We have basically been decomposing our system to follow the same set of instructions. So now we show a carpenter a wet wall that goes into a bathroom. They get full 3D visual information with the step-by-step flow for where the pipes have to go and where they have to get the connectors. And we’ve done the same thing for electrical, and this has been a huge force multiplier for us because now we can get apprentices and carpenters to actually scale up pretty quickly to perform a lot more work in the house. 

And this is where it starts looking more and more like manufacturing. If you think about a car again, it has plumbing, electrical work, and HVAC systems in it. But you don’t need a plumber, an electrician, or an HVAC technician to assemble a car. It’s all done by a general-purpose manufacturing technician. We think that’s where wall construction has to go, because now we start getting the scaling effect of having a skilled person be able to perform a whole bunch of tasks but also not having to perform every task themselves. They get to use robots, cobots, and other software augmentation solutions that allow them to do more for the amount of time that they put in. This future would allow 15 people in a small factory to build 100 homes a year, a task that currently requires 100 to 150 people.

Yeah, no, I think it’s really smart to make the user interface simplistic enough that one person does not need to be a super genius to access robotic technology or robotic augmentation, right? I think that right now, when I look at the robotics industry realistically, there are people like you who have this long career and can do valuable things, and then there are people who are just dabbling. Even hobbyists are very skilled, very great, but to really get robots into every single home, the user interface has to be really simplistic, really easy to use. Not just for homes, but also in trades, like what you’re talking about. The ability to augment ourselves will only happen when we make that interface very easy to use. If apprentices are able to use this stuff, that’s going to be really valuable for them.

I just want to take a quick transition here for a second. When I think about robots, I think about the traditional humanoid version that Tesla’s making, or Atlas by Boston Dynamics, which is just a stone’s throw from us. Then I see alternative robots like what you guys have in your plant, which is the robotic arm. Where do you see the line being drawn between the humanoid version and something more industry-specific? Do you think humanoids are going to overtake a lot of these tasks, or will it be much more specific robots for each individual trade?

That’s almost the question of the day at this point. Given how much progress we’ve seen in humanoids, I believe it’s a continuum. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast line that says these are the use cases where you need to switch completely to a different platform. It’s a continuum. Every robot is a tool in your tool chest, and depending on the use case, you’ll pick the best robot for it. We’ve chosen to use off-the-shelf, almost commodity hardware. A robotic arm in an industrial setting is practically a commodity; you just pick and choose the color and brand you want, and then build your systems around it. All the innovation we’re doing is more in the software, which makes a simple commodity robot do exceptional things.

If we needed a robot to traverse and navigate terrain that only two legs could manage, and we needed the dexterity of two arms, there are specific use cases where a humanoid form factor might be appropriate in the future. For us, as a team, we’re pragmatists. We pick the best tool that gets us closer to our mission. We see a future where certain on-site tasks could benefit from robots that are more mobile and dexterous than those typically used in industrial settings.

We see a future where certain on-site tasks could benefit from robots that are more mobile and dexterous than those typically used in industrial settings.

How do you feel about augmentation with exosuits? My interest in robotics comes from science fiction, and exosuits are every childhood boy’s dream, right? You get into this thing and can fight monsters. The most famous exosuit is probably from Aliens, where Ripley gets into that construction loader for heavy-duty work. I always thought that was a natural transition for robotics. Instead of having one carpenter manage a team of robots, the carpenter would wear an exosuit, increasing his capabilities. Where do you see that coming into play? It seems like exosuits are becoming less popular, with more interest in augmenting humans in the labor space instead.

Yeah, I’d love to see a few more mecha suits out there.

Why aren’t we there yet anyway?

Yeah, but there’s been a version of it, right? Even in our industry, we’re seeing exoskeletons being used for industrial applications. These exosuits are largely used to improve ergonomics or load-carrying capabilities. In the construction industry, we have access to exosuits that allow drywall installers to lift heavy sheets of drywall and install them on the ceiling. We already see these tools coming up. Back in my warehouse automation days, we saw companies developing exosuits to help – instead of needing two people to pick up a giant TV, the exosuit improves the load-carrying capability so one person in a suit can do a team lift alone. So, we do see very targeted applications of exoskeletons. There are actually a couple of companies in the Boston area working on this.

The distinction is, once you start using a decoupled robotic system, humanoid, or mobile robot, you get a lot more force multiplication. If you give a person a screen and a joystick, rather than put them in a suit to control stuff, you get a lot more efficiency. In a one-to-one mapping world, putting them in a suit might allow them to augment one other robot. But with good UIs where they can control a fleet of vehicles or robots, you get much more force multiplication. That’s why you’re seeing more joystick and video game interfaces, where humans in the loop improve the performance of robotic systems.

That’s cool. I feel like I could talk to you about robots and their potential forever, but I want to focus on the home aspect because it’s on everybody’s mind. With home prices being so high, one of the things I really like about what you guys are doing is that, while it’s not necessarily off the grid, you’re not as beholden to the grid with your solar technology and electric systems. That’s another interest of mine and many others. After the pandemic, everyone seemed interested in having a farm in the woods, being able to survive independently. When I saw your company, I thought about this potential use case for people like me who want to buy land apart from the city and set up something self-sufficient. Net-zero homes play into this because you don’t want to waste money heating a home you’re only in occasionally. Is this a potential use case for your homes? Is this something you’ve thought about?

Definitely. We get asked about off-grid homes all the time. The main distinction between a net-zero home and an off-grid home is the amount of battery capacity needed. For an off-grid home, you need a lot more capacity because you’re planning for more peaks and dips in your load curve compared to a home connected to the grid. The piece we haven’t solved for yet, but it’s on our roadmap, is how to recycle water efficiently. Greywater recycling is critical for operating homes efficiently. Surprisingly, even when building homes, we’re looking at one development opportunity in New Hampshire, the requirements start looking pretty similar. You still need a septic system and greywater recycling. So, the continuum from net-zero to off-grid is actually bridging a lot more. We’ll need to develop the underlying systems to make that happen.

Yeah, that’s cool. Well, whenever you get to the off-grid home stage, rather than just having a prototype, I’d be happy to try it out because I’ve been interested in it for a long time. But I have a few more questions. I know you’re partnering with different organizations to bring these homes to fruition. How are they impacting those communities socially? I know that you guys are looking into the social impact of your houses. I don’t face this issue daily because I’m housing secure, knock on wood, and I don’t deal with the challenges others in our population do. I’d like to know more about the problem and how you guys are addressing it.

Addressing Housing Affordability

Definitely, yeah. The housing shortage is a multi-pronged problem with severe repercussions, not just for people struggling to find homes but for the societies where those homes are located. There are economic repercussions if there aren’t enough homes because you lack a workforce to support the local economy. This has become a top political agenda for every elected official since they realize if you don’t solve housing, everything else crumbles. We’ve been partnering with a class of affordable developers called Community Development Corporations (CDCs). Our first project in Arlington was for the Housing Corporation of Arlington, an affordable CDC. Their mission is to acquire or build housing for folks earning 50% to 80% of the area median income, allowing them to afford homes either as rentals or ownership opportunities.

We’re working with the Somerville Community Corporation to build two triple-deckers in Somerville. We’ve seen interest from other CDCs too. Their mission aligns well with ours: producing more housing that is affordable and attainable for a large part of the population. We’ve found surprising alignment in considering home costs as both operating (opex) and capital expenditures (capex). The affordable community is more sensitive to operating expenses than the market-rate community. For example, if someone spends $2,000 a month on rent and $150 on utilities, that’s almost 8% to 10% of their monthly expenses on utilities. Building net-zero passive homes reduces these costs significantly, making utilities 60% to 80% cheaper. Affordable developers care about this because it benefits both the planet and the people living there, having a meaningful impact on their wallets. So, we’ve seen good alignment there.

That’s cool. I wish you the best of luck. It seems like homeownership is on everyone’s mind right now. The idea of the American dream of owning your own home is strong. I wanted to ask about a trend in the news: large corporations buying single-family homes. What does a typical CDC look like? Are these corporations allowing people to purchase their own homes, or are they renting them out?

It depends, they usually do both. They have a mix depending on how much they want to keep as rentals versus for sale units. For example, the ADU we built cannot be sold, so it will be a rental. The triple-deckers we’re working on with the Somerville Community Corporation aim to have three units for sale and three for rental. So, we always see a mix. Although they have “corporation” in their name, they’re effectively neighborhood affordable developers and nonprofits working on community support. It’s very different from the private equity corporations buying many homes that you hear about otherwise.

Robotics in the household

Yeah. And I think realistically, until there’s enough product out there to compete with those private equity companies, that trend is going to continue. So I like corporations like yours that are trying to increase the available housing. I think more products on the market will help bring prices down. But again, I’m not an expert in this field, and I wish you the best because I believe if we can make homes better, more people can access the American dream who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

I did want to talk with you a little bit. You’re a dad. I’m a dad. Robotics is going to be a big part of our kids’ lives. What’s your comfort level with robotics in the household? This is literally your field of interest. We have all these consumer robots on the verge of coming out, and you have two daughters. Are you going to get a Tesla bot? Are you going to get an Atlas bot? I’m always asking other parents about their comfort levels, and especially someone like you, who’s an expert in this area. I’d be really interested to know how you feel about it.

Yeah, I think it’s a really good question. The simple answer for me is yes, I would consider it the way I would consider buying an appliance or a tool. It still comes down to the value proposition. There are always inherent risks. You have just as many risks with your gas stove at home or other appliances. At the end of the day, it’s managed risk. If you think about a robot in the home, I’ve been a lifelong owner of a Roomba, which has given plenty of value and entertainment. My mindset is still very much based on the utility value of it. To me, it’s a tool that accomplishes a specific use case for which you’re willing to buy and keep it in your home. Hollywood takes a very different stance on it, and movies really haven’t done justice to how you should think about a robot in general. If it’s gone through a product development process, it is economically viable and does a whole bunch of useful things like fold my laundry.

I can’t wait until that happens. That’s going to be huge. I think I’m going to be one of the first people in line for consumer robotics. But, you know, I have to convince my wife. It’s nice to say, “Well, you know, Vikas is an expert in robots and he’s totally fine with it.” Anyway, my point is that it’s going to be a very interesting time for our kids, right? They might have a friendship with a robot that’s much more significant than a human. They might have a really powerful relationship with something that isn’t human. That’s going to be interesting to see. They have these little educational robots that talk to you and teach you things. I haven’t made the jump on it yet, but it’s interesting to hear from people in the industry about their comfort levels. I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I think everyone is hesitant because they see the negative effects of social media on children, so there’s pushback against any screen and any consumer technology for children. But I see a valuable future with robots in the household. I think that’s the future every utopian science fiction dreams about, where we can focus on what we enjoy rather than mundane tasks. Just like your carpenters don’t have to do the framing. It’s really interesting.

The last thing I wanted to discuss before we get into the three questions I ask my guests is the idea that robots are going to take over our jobs and replace humans. We talked a little about augmentation and how you see that as the future. What would you say to people with a pessimistic outlook to help them have a more optimistic view? I look at it and say, “Listen, you’re going to be able to focus on less mundane tasks.” But I’m not in the industry, and you deal with this every day. What do you say to the naysayers who are against the push for robotics?

I think the fear of new technology has existed as long as mankind has. Every change always has people worried about the immediate impact, like losing their jobs. The reality is there will be certain companies and situations where that could happen, but at a social level, we’ve seen how robotics at Amazon, for instance, allowed us to grow the business and create more jobs over ten years than if we didn’t have the robots. We couldn’t have built the business without the efficiencies robots provided.

People often see the first-order effect of a robot as a one-to-one replacement for a person in a factory, worrying that someone will lose their job. They fail to see the second-order effect: if a company becomes more efficient with robots or other technology, it has more free cash flow to grow, creating more jobs and value in the long run. That’s the world I see—businesses becoming more efficient, growing more, creating more jobs, and changing the nature of work.

Even 50-60 years ago, people worked six days a week. In the US, we work five days a week now. Technology might allow us to work even fewer hours, leading to richer lives. Society has been optimizing for time and quality of life, which technology enables. We must be pragmatic and recognize short-term impacts. Every business will make decisions in its own way, and there will always be some short-term repercussions. The same applies to how companies use AI. There’s always short-term noise with new introductions, but the industry calibrates, and there’s more growth than before. I’m very optimistic that technology will lead to more fulfilling work and opportunities.

Yeah, that’s cool. I mean, I think that experience is really invaluable because not many people have deployed 500,000 robots across the US. You have, and you’ve probably seen some of this pushback firsthand. From what I’m reading in the press, outside of personal experience, everybody at Amazon seems to think that the robots they’ve introduced are a good thing, allowing workers to have more fulfilling lives. It takes out some of the grunt work, if you will. It’s nice to see that even at the ground level, people believe in the idea of optimization rather than replacement once you introduce it. So I really appreciate that.


We’re getting close to our time. I wanted to speak with you a little about the overarching questions we all have when we have someone like yourself on our program. The first is inspiration, which we touched on a bit. You got into this field because when your kids were born, you wanted to have an impact, and I really love that. But what inspires you on a day-to-day basis? What brings you to work and energizes you? For me, scientific breakthroughs in my field drive me. If I can get a little better at surgery or helping my patients, that’s when I really get energized. What about you, Vikas? What motivates you?

Yeah, no, I mean, I’m a builder and problem solver at heart. The problem we have in front of us for Reframe is pretty mind-boggling. As the US, we have to build a net-zero home every 15 seconds and retrofit a home every 2 seconds to truly meet our climate goals. It’s a pretty hard thing to do, and that challenge drives me to figure out if there’s a better way to do things. What gets me going daily, at least on the work side, is the amazing team we’ve built. There’s a lot of joy as a parent at home, but there’s also a lot of joy in building this team and seeing them do their magic in the workplace. We’re in the business of building homes, and there’s something meaningful at the end of the day. Overall, I feel like both the intellectual and emotional sides of me are very fulfilled on this journey because we’re solving a hard problem and doing the right thing.

Cool, man. Well, thanks for saying that. I think everyone gains a lot of inspiration from the team that surrounds them, and sometimes we don’t even realize it until someone else says it. I totally agree. I genuinely enjoy going into work and seeing my team. If you have a few bad apples, it changes your whole perspective on that day. I really like the team I’ve created as well, so it’s nice to hear that that’s something echoed in your journey as well.

Where do you see the robotics industry in ten years? This is a question on everyone’s mind. We see significant progress in YouTube videos, like Atlas dancing, and it looks amazing. But I feel like I’ve been seeing those videos for decades. I remember when Obama first introduced the competition for them to do an obstacle course, and I was downloading the videos from Napster. It seems like we’ve been at this forever, and I see progress, but I don’t know on what scale it’s going to happen. Someone like you might have a better idea of that. So where do you see us with robotics in ten years?

I think we’re finally at an inflection point where three things have aligned. We have the algorithms and computational capability to start processing a lot of the uncertainty in the real world that a robot has to deal with. We’ve seen the cost of underlying components go down significantly with the advent of the smartphone market and additional sensors going into our cars. The cost of fundamental sensors required for robots, like cameras and accelerometers, has gone down by a factor of ten in the last 15 years, thanks to the smartphone industry. So, the cost of underlying components has come down, the technology sophistication has gone up, and we’re finally seeing the capital stack, both in venture capital and research dollars, aligning. There’s a massive convergence where we have the fuel and capability to make this real.

I’m very optimistic that in ten years, we’ll see a significant transformation. Think about the computers and phones we were using 15 years ago compared to now. That was a huge change, down to the smartwatches we wear that monitor our health. I think we’ll see a similar step change with robots. They might still look like they’re walking or doing something similar, but the way they do it will be vastly different. For instance, a robotic arm in automotive videos, which used to be positionally programmed to go from point to point, will now figure out how to get to those locations on its own. We’ll see similar tasks being done at a much lower cost and time.

I think we’ll see a similar step change with robots. They might still look like they’re walking or doing something similar, but the way they do it will be vastly different.

For robots entering home environments, I think that’s finally going to become a possibility, given the cost structures at play and the robots’ ability to react to the uncertainty in a home environment. I’m pretty bullish that we’ll see a tenfold increase in the number of robots out there, and we’ll probably reach a point where there’s a robot in every home.

Excited about outside the industry

And I think that would make for a really interesting experience, especially as parents. The amount of time we have been devoting to childcare has increased over the past 30 years. It’s much harder to raise a child in 2024 than it was in 1964. Personally, I believe that to help the next generation, we need some sort of assistance in the home. So I hope you’re correct, and I see a lot of progress happening. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the data out there. Thank you for your insight.

So, the last question I wanted to ask you, which is not about robotics or construction. In your personal life… there are many technological breakthroughs happening in your industry… but what are you excited about outside of your industry? What are you reading that you can’t get enough of? For me, it’s longevity. I think it’s revolutionary to look at aging as a disease rather than an inevitability. But what about you, Vikas? What do you like to read or learn about outside of the industry you’re an expert in?

Yeah, I’ve been introspecting a lot more and generally looking at what I need to do to live a more fulfilling life, both physically and emotionally. I finally got to read the book The Overstory, which is amazing. It reads as a book of trees, but there are so many layers of stories built into it. It’s a very meditative experience. I also started reading Outlive by Peter Attia. It’s interesting to figure out what habits and rituals need to be factored in at this stage. And then it’s about just doing the simple things with my kids. We’re huge fans of the show Bluey—would highly recommend it.

Yeah, I’m sure.

For people with two to five-year-olds, definitely.

Are there any breakthroughs that you’re excited about? I can’t wait until I get consumer robotics in my house. There’s so much happening in robotics, longevity, genetics, and other areas. The pace of change is exponential. So, other than reading books, is there any technology you’re really excited about outside of your field?

Yeah, I mean, I’m looking forward to the day when we have a wearable tricorder that can truly figure out why we feel the way we feel and what’s really happening in our bodies. The Apple Watch is probably the closest we’ve got to it at this point, but there’s a lot more that needs to happen there.


Absolutely. I totally agree with that. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a Star Trek reference. The tricorder could read almost anything with amazing sensor technology, and it could give you information and communicate. It was like an all-encompassing computational and sensor box. I think of all the utopian science fiction, Star Trek is my favorite because of its post-money, post-food scarcity, and post-racial discrimination. I hope that’s the future we look forward to. I appreciate the fact that you’re building that future because robots have to be a part of it. Thank you so much for joining us today, Vikas. It’s been really interesting to talk to you, and thank you to our listeners who tune in regularly. Without you, I could not do this. So please like and subscribe. It really helps me out. For those who listen consistently, I will see you again in the future. Thanks again, everybody. Have a great day.

Thank you, Doctor Awesome. Take care.


Important Links


About Vikas Enti

Vikas Enti on The Futurist Society PodcastVikas Enti is the Co-Founder and CEO of Reframe Systems – a startup developing novel robotic microfactories to build net-zero homes 2x faster, 2x cheaper with 10x lower carbon emissions. Prior to founding Reframe, Vikas spent 11 years at Amazon Robotics (Kiva Systems), disrupting single-thread conveyor lines with flexible robotics. He was the Head of Systems and Products, where he led a 150+ person global team to deliver robotic bin picking and autonomous mobile robots while scaling the business to 500k+ robots deployed across 100+ installations. Vikas is deeply passionate about addressing climate change with pragmatic solutions that can be deployed rapidly at a massive scale.


By: The Futurist Society