IAM Robotics’ robots, dubbed Swift and Bolt, move about the warehouse floor completely on their own.
“We have the only robots that can drive around a warehouse and pick up items off of a shelf by themselves, using computer vision and their own ability to see,” says IAM Robotics founder Tom Galluzzo. The robots then add those items to a downstream process where they are packed and shipped to customers.
Such is the world of e-commerce which is rapidly changing the way we buy everything. And that’s a great opportunity for the robotics company.
“The industry is capped out on labor,” explains Galluzzo. “They’re leaning heavily on automatic systems and robots to do the work, because there’s just not enough people to do it.”
The idea for their robots was born, like so many of the companies within Pittsburgh’s fast-growing robotics cluster, at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Lawrenceville.
“We were working on how you get robots that have hands and arms and eyes to see items and pick them up and move them around,” says Galluzzo. “We got pretty confident in our ability to do that, even though it’s a very difficult problem. We started looking for low-hanging fruit, and it led us to e-commerce.”
The company is expanding rapidly, moving soon from suburban Sewickley to a new 30,000-square-foot office in the Strip District. Robotics companies have very specific needs that diverge from the typical high-tech office space.
“Not only do you need Class A office space for very bright computer scientists writing code, but you need a raw warehouse environment to do testing of the hardware that we’re developing — where you’re really using the products you’re selling. The startup world calls it ‘eating your own dog food,’ where you really get a sense of how it works, and come up with a lot of ideas on how to make it better.”
IAM Robotics expects to grow its staff — now at 55 — by 25 to 30 percent. The move will also help with acquiring new talent.
“We wanted to be central to everything going on in Lawrenceville and the Strip District, Robotics Row,” says Galluzzo. “We’ll be next-door neighbors to NREC. We’re attracting a lot of young energetic talented folks from CMU, and that’s where everyone wants to be, so we’re excited to be back there.”
“It’s a familiar area for a lot of companies spun out of CMU. There’s a ton of great amenities, and it has a great energy to it. It has a sense of growth and innovation right now. People want to put their finger on the pulse of that spirit of Pittsburgh.”