From their factory in Cheswick, Dynamics Inc. mainly produces flexible electronics for smart cards and mobile phones. When the Covid crisis hit, they saw something else they could do. So they built Nanowave Air, a portable, conical pod-shaped device has four motors that pull in air. Using ultraviolet light, the device can inactivate up to 99% of the Covid virus, in less than two-thousandths of a second.
The device is already being used in homes of Covid-positive people, and has potential applications for everything from hospitals to bathrooms to cubicles. Dynamics has raised more than $110 million since its formation, employs more than 50 people and is hiring. They recently signed a deal with Concordance Healthcare Solutions LLC, one of the largest independent, healthcare distributors in the U.S., to sell Nanowave Air nationally.
Near Earth Autonomy
You’ve already heard that Pittsburgh has an edge in the race for a self-driving car. Self-driving aircraft is next. Point Breeze-based Near Earth Autonomy has partnered with the Kaman Corporation and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to develop a fully-autonomous K-MAX helicopter, which can lift up to 6,000 pounds. It’s got the potential for everything from resupply missions to medical evacuations while reducing the risks to a human pilot. Near Earth employs 80 and is hiring engineers.
Pittsburgh’s booming Robotics Row in the Strip and Lawrenceville has a couple of new residents, Swift and Bolt. These two robots move about the warehouse floor completely on their own, using computer vision to identify items and grab them from the shelves. IAM Robotics moved this year from Sewickley to a new 30,000 square foot headquarters in the Strip, and expects to grow. With the explosion of e-commerce, the company sees incredible opportunities ahead for Swift and Bolt.
Are you sensing a pattern here—? Pittsburgh’s strengths in autonomous vehicles extend to trucking, too. Locomation’s Autonomous Relay Convoying technology allows a driver in the lead truck to have a truck following along autonomously. In effect, one driver manages two trucks, while the second driver in the following truck rests. In October, Locomation announced that they will install their technology in at least 1,120 trucks operated by Wilson Logistics — and the pilot program, a route between Idaho and Oregon, was successful.
Safe Space Technologies
Covid has a new opponent in Pittsburgh — robots. Safe Space Technologies makes robots that disinfect entire rooms using UVC light, which kills viruses. The tall, thin ‘bots are basically a UVC light on wheels, with a sophisticated camera system on top. It roves the room like a Roomba and can be used for classrooms, offices, factories, gyms, cafeterias — really, rooms of just about any space. The company also makes a disinfection cabinet for laptops, also using UV light, that can disinfect 45 laptops or tablets in three minutes.
Digital Dream Labs
Vector and Cozmo, robotic toys originally developed by the Silicon Valley robotics company Anki, put an incredible amount of artificial intelligence into a very tiny package. Anki had $100 million in revenue in 2018, then unexpectedly went out of business. A maker of educational video games (teaching coding, math, art, and chemistry) based in Pittsburgh, Digital Dream Labs, scooped up Anki’s assets. Cozmo, which has sold more than a million and a half units, is an autonomous instructional toy that teaches the basics of robotics, plays games and performs tricks.
The more advanced Vector is also marketed towards adults and has become a beloved companion for many. It’s also an open-source robot — meaning there are 200,000+ users who can program it to do whatever they want. Digital Dream Labs has also developed the robotic race car system Infinidrive, an update on Anki’s Overdrive (which has already sold several million sets), that uses wireless technologies to keep its cars racing around the track continuously. The little robots with expressive eyes are starring in a new cartoon series called “Cozmo & Friends,” from UK children’s television company Sutikki (“Moon and Me”). Another recent project is the Butter Robot from the cartoon “Rick & Morty,” a fan-favorite character who questions the reason for his own existence — which is, sadly, merely to pass the butter at dinner.