Mission-driven Apogee Robotics launches personalized companion robot for autistic and neurodivergent people

By Chris Daniels

The startup space is filled with “world changing companies” that are really just optimizing  Facebook Ad clicks, shaving taco delivery from 12 minutes to 9 minutes, and showing data in new pretty colors. These are all good in their own right as they solve problems for businesses and optimize different parts of our lives.

But it’s rare to find a truly mission-driven entrepreneur that is addressing a problem so technically, scientifically, and culturally challenging that has the potential to change the lives of millions of people.

Kendall Peterson, founder and CEO of Apogee Robotics [pictured below], is one of those rare entrepreneurs who has made it his life’s mission to create a better way for neurodivergent people to thrive. Apogee Robotics is creating a personalized educational companion robot called Kebbi to help neurodivergent people learn, grow, and alleviate many of the challenges their caretakers face.

Peterson has been a South Florida serial entrepreneur and executive for over 30 years. He has started eight companies and had two successful exits across a variety of sectors. He’s also a seasoned strategy executive. Peterson has held executive-level positions at a handful of South Florida’s largest companies like Florida Power & Light, Verizon, and Costa Farms. In addition to all these accomplishments, Peterson and his spouse are deeply involved in a number of philanthropic efforts throughout the South Florida region.

Peterson didn’t start with the proverbial “silver spoon,” though. At age 15, he was homeless and living behind a dumpster. In his early life he faced plenty of dysfunction and hardship. Through this, he set out to discover why some people, businesses, and organizations are successful and others are not. That led him on a 30-year quest to find the principles, commonalities, and strategies needed for success. 

The story of Apogee Robotics started in 2022 when Peterson worked with another robotics company that was only focused on providing autism care. In this strategy role, he saw how technically difficult it was to solve the problem and recognized the opportunity to approach it from a different perspective to have a greater impact

Early iterations of Apogee Robotics educational care companion

About 20% of Americans are neurodivergent, meaning they have conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, PTSD, and the like. Neurodivergent people can face a wide range of challenges across learning, emotional, and social difficulties. The biggest problem with the current support and care system for neurodivergent people is that there is largely a one-size-fits-all approach which doesn’t take into account the individual’s uniqueness. 

Peterson remarked, “If somebody presents with a particular challenge, there is a standard way that you approach that. There might be six different varieties or eight different varieties or two different varieties, but it’s still one established standard.” 

To illustrate an example, take a fictitious autistic third-grade child named Timmy. In the typical scenario, Timmy’s teacher would notice that he is struggling and may need additional help. The teacher will do their best with their limited time and resources but ultimately needs to get the parents and other teachers engaged. Timmy would then go through an examination with a therapist or neurologist to determine if there is a particular diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, the administrators at the school would select an appropriate care plan called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). The teacher would then implement the IEP for Timmy. 

In addition to the one-size-fits-all IEP limitations, the current system can take a year or longer to diagnose Timmy. Only after a diagnosis and implementation of the IEP does Timmy start to get the care he needs. This further delays progress for Timmy. 

Apogee solves this through its friendly anthropomorphous robotic companion named Kebbi. Kebbi provides a timely assessment of learning styles and challenges which is then turned into a personalized development plan, and an individualized selection of learning, emotional, and social programs. Paramount to the entire solution is the ability for Kebbi to create a peer-to-peer relationship with the neurodivergent person. This allows the person to learn without perceived social judgment or pressure, which is often a major challenge for neurodivergent individuals.

Continuing the example of Timmy, Kebbi starts by having a verbal conversation with Timmy through Kebbi’s friendly screen. Kebbi is able to identify Timmy’s challenges in real-time and seamlessly begin providing learning and activity-based programming for Timmy. Within a few minutes, Timmy is playing interactive games with Kebbi like learning how to ride the bus, practicing math, or going on a quest to ancient Rome. Kebbi continues to learn about Timmy’s strengths and areas of improvement through the dynamic games which then impacts the content, pace, and programs that Kebbi suggests. 

Peterson shared a story of how an autistic 8 year old child spoke his first words ever to Kebbi within 5 minutes of interacting with the friendly robot. Peterson shared how the boy’s mother broke down in tears after being able to communicate with her child for the first time in 10 years. Countless stories like this are enough to give you goosebumps about the positive impact that Apogee Robotics can have in the world. 

The Apogee Robotics flagship product, Kebbi Air S.

When asked about how Kebbi is different from other neurodivergent care products, Peterson said, “What we’re bringing to the table is that it’s not a software that we plug AI into to get a little added advantage. What we really are building is an AI solution that also has software, robotics, and all of the other components.”

It’s important to note that Apogee Robotics is not just for children. Millions of adults need neurodivergent care and Apogee is able to provide that. Kebbi teaches adults skills like how to interview for a job, how to interact in different social settings, and how to express different emotions. Apogee Robotics is actively looking to bring Kebbi to organizations that work with neurodivergent adults. 

Peterson has six children, three of which were adopted from foster care. He mentioned how everyone is somehow connected to neurodivergent people whether that be as a parent, family member, caretaker, friend, or colleague. 

Solving neurodivergent care is a momentous feat filled with complicated science, mechanics, and technology. When asked why Peterson is on this mission, he said:

“What I really want to devote the rest of my working life to is things that really matter and make people’s lives better,” says Peterson.

Peterson has assembled a team of eight other mission-driven people to form Apogee Robotics. He noted the deep passion that his team has for solving this problem for friends, family, and millions around the world.  

If you’re interested in getting involved with Apogee Robotics, Peterson invites you to reach out at [email protected].

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Chris Daniels