Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kiva Systems, and the Region's Robotics Cluster

Yesterday's Boston Globe column focused on the warehouse automation solution developed by a start-up called Kiva Systems. It's being used by companies like Staples, Walgreens, and, and it relies on beefy orange robots -- about the site of ottomans -- to move around racks of merchandise. Interestingly, Kiva's founder came east to start the company, after working at Apple and WebVan in Silicon Valley.

Here's the video I shot at Kiva's 'demonstration warehouse' last week:

In doing the story, I discovered that the region's most significant robotics industry networking group seems to be the robotics cluster that the Mass Technology Leadership Council has created. While the MassTLC doesn't have a comprehensive list of all the robotics companies in the state, they have produced a
snazzy brochure (PDF) touting the benefits of being headquartered here.

Aside from Kiva, here's the list of the ten New England robotics companies I heard mentioned most often during my research (ranked in no particular order):

    - iRobot: publicly-traded maker of bots for pool cleaning and bomb disposal. Co-founded by MIT prof Rodney Brooks, and Colin Angle and Helen Greiner, his former students.

    - Foster-Miller: Waltham developer of robots for reconnaissance and hazmat disposal.

    - Boston Dynamics: maker of walking, animal-like robots for the military. Founded by MIT "Leg Lab" legend Marc Raibert.

    - Bluefin Robotics: Cambridge, Mass. designer of robots that aren't afraid to get wet.

    - Hydroid: another manufacturer of underwater bots, in Pocasset, Mass.

    - North End Technologies: stealthy NH robotics company funded by Castile Ventures. Founded by iRobot alums.

    - Q Robotics: another quiet Mass. company founded by Paul Sandin and Joe Jones, creators of iRobot's Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.

    - Smart Robots: Dalton, Mass. maker of mobile robotic platforms for education and application development.

    - MobileRobots, formerly ActivMedia Robotics: NH company focused on "research and university robots."

    - Black i Robotics: Tyngsboro, Mass. maker of rugged six-wheeled robots.

Labels: , , ,