Unstoppable, stubborn and hard-headed. These are the three words that Ilko Shtirkov uses to describe himself. He is 21 years old and is the creator of the ANTY robot, which aims to solve the problem with parking in major cities. The idea of ANTY is to move cars from places which are hard to be reached by a tow truck (or spider as it’s famous in Bulgaria). He says he’s dealing with what he doesn’t like how others do. He observes why something is not working, thinks how it can be improved, and if it is interesting, he works on the solution. He chose Innovator for his workspace.
ANTY is …?
The ANTY robot is the best friend of those who do not break the law in Varna and park properly, and the worst enemy of those who don’t park as they should. A robot which will move your car if it is stopped incorrectly. The project ANTY is a part of my business – Smart City.
How did you come up with the idea of your business?
I live in the center of Varna and have a parking place, but I find it difficult to get to it because there are people who park incorrectly on the narrow streets in the center. I’ve been thinking – okay, can a spider even get a car out of there? The spider raises the cars just from above. And what if we put something under the car? I started drawing in my mind or on a white board different types of robot models. Then the sketches became 3D models. And so on.
How do you see the development of Smart City in the next 3 years?
I am interested to see how the robot will work in shopping centers. In my opinion, this will create a slightly more organized environment, less traffic jam. Also, I have a bunch of other ideas for different types of robots. They are related to things that are not always done good in cities.
Regarding this vision, what are the next steps in your development?
The first step I made is to visualize the path I have to go through and, accordingly, start a step-by-step approach to accomplish the small tasks. At first for about 2-3 weeks I drew various designs on the white board. I read about the different technologies that exist. I combined all these things to make a robot which will do the job. Then, I applied for funds, they approved me..I still don’t know how – I’m not sure why they did, but I obviously impressed them a lot. Now, step by step, we build the robot – first, with a small prototype and less power, then we add one function, build up the level, and so on until we reach the final product.
What does the work on your own project give you?
It gives me a lot of freedom. The fact that I have the freedom to decide what actions to undertake is very, very pleasant. I think I have the ability to lead one thing by myself. You navigate the ship – you are the captain.
What keeps you motivated?
I really want to create something great in Bulgaria, because I am tired of listening how other countries are always the best of the bests. The truth is there are many talented people here. Only the idea of creating something which can become a cool place or a place where people will work with pleasure is enough motivation for me. And in the future I may be able to make a bigger change, that’s also part of my motivation.
How do you rest?
You got me. I am constantly thinking of what my next move is going to be. If you consider it relaxing, I enjoy watching a movie in the evening. From time to time I also like to try new things like flying or go-kart – that’s how I rest. If I do something too calm, my brain easily starts thinking about the project. It must be something that brings me adrenaline. I have to be very focused on the activity. It’s hard to think about the next step for the robot while you fly, for example.
How did you start flying?
My mother was a pilot when she was my age. A racer. My father also flew but with a hang glider. My sister is a flight attendant and her husband is a pilot. I basically grew up at the airport. At first I was afraid of flying but after the first flight I though How could I have been afraid?, and since then flying has been a great pleasure for me. It is very relaxing.
Tell us a little more about your life in Innovator. What does Innovator give you?
Innovator is a unique place. Perhaps if I had not come to Innovator, the project would not have been so advanced. A month or two behind. Here I met a very talented boy, with whom I am working right now and he is helping a lot. Sometimes when you do something like this, something entirely new, you start to lose you motivation. But when you come to such a place and see that everyone is very close to you, it motivates you and you go forward, as a great Bulgarian athlete said. This is a great advantage. In Innovator there are specialists in everything … and they are really good specialists. Many people who understand their work, work on their own and share their experience, which is the most important thing. Also there are interesting topics for conversations and a motivating environment.