Lauren Simmonds: How an obscure city in Croatia gave birth to industrial robotics pioneer Gideon

(Editor’s note: This post about Gideon and robotics is part of our Tech Tuesday series. Dispatches covers tech because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers and entrepreneurs.)

Much like tech in Croatia (which I’ve written about extensively), robotics is also a word few would associate with this country. Despite being Nikola Tesla’s birthplace, Croatia is synonymous with tourism, but it is slowly and surely breaking free of those self-imposed, sun-drenched shackles to explore new pastures.

Most of those pastures include startups, technological innovation, AI and – robotics. More bizarre yet is the city which birthed the Gideon Brothers, now simply known as Gideon. It wasn’t Zagreb. It was Osijek, the largest city in eastern Croatia, a difficult and complex region infamous for its brain drain, demographic crisis and slow post-war recovery.

Tech for the ‘warehouse of the future’

Gideon developed an autonomous robotic platform for cargo transfer back in 2018, and it took off as if it had wings of its own, even though at first it diidn’t even have a name. This robot wowed its audience by utilizing an autonomous platform for cargo transport, and Gideon’s focus at the time was the so-called “warehouse of the future.”

Such fulfillment warehouses are being used more and more frequently by giant merchants with complex logistics such as Amazon, and this Croatian robot represented a leap forward for logistics companies.

Working 24 hours per day, every single day, and with zero breaks, Gideon’s robot was an instant hit in aiding companies solve some of the most complicated supply chain challenges.

This remarkable piece of innovation hinted at a bright international future for robotics from Croatia.

Developed and created by a team of five doctors of science and 26 experts in the field of hardware, all from Croatia, the robot became sought after. In less than two years since its inception, this Osijek startup developed technology ten times cheaper and more powerful in collecting its environmental data than the type which was the most widely used back in 2018 – the LIDAR driving system.

Expanding in Europe and the US

That was 2018.

By 2021 and with the coronavirus pandemic having a firm grip on Europe, the need for smart automation was very rapidly accelerated. It was in that year that this Osijek company secured a Series A investment of $31 million and opened offices in Munich and across the pond in Boston in order to expand into key European Union and U.S. markets.

According to a study conducted by ABI Research, the global mobile robotics market is expected to reach $158.6 billion by the year 2030. By then, there will be more than 15 million Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in use, 90 percent of which will use robotic vision.

Where does that place this innovative Croatian company looking to the future?

Well, for starters, their robot now has a name, Trey, and it has proven popular on an enormous scale. Automating the toughest material handling jobs, collaborative, AI and vision-based autonomous mobile robots help clients mitigate demand and labour shortage challenges, states Gideon’s website, adding that “people are at the heart of everything they do.”

It’s certain that Gideon is looking at a future so bright that sunglasses will be required, and the increasingly futuristic Croatia is firmly placing itself on the map with some of the most impressive state-of-the-art technology currently available.

Few would have ever expected that this country’s talents would extend throughout the entire spectrum of tech, from AI to software, and from remarkable mobile apps to innovative solutions in the likes of FPV drones and robotics.

Gideon has since been joined by an array of Croatian enterprises engaged in some form in robotics, with a team of Croatian roboticists from the Zagreb Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing even beating strong competition from the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at a prestigious international robotics competition in Abu Dhabi.


Read more about Croatia’s tech scene here in Dispatches’ archives.

Read more from Lauren here.

Lauren Simmonds

Lauren Simmonds is the editor of Total Croatia News, the largest English language portal in Croatia. She lives in Zagreb, Croatia, and is a translator, content writer, interpreter and the co-author of "Croatia - A Survival Kit for Foreigners," which was published in 2022.

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