Robots Rock: Kiva Founder Mick Mountz at Hardtech Revolution 12/9

11/5/13Follow @curtwoodward

If you want to revolutionize e-commerce and shipping, start from the ground up.

That’s what Mick Mountz did at Kiva Systems, the Boston-area robotics company that turned rows of stationary warehouse shelves into a tightly choreographed dance of product delivery.

It’s logistics made sexy, with a healthy assist from the new generation of intelligent, sensor-laden networked robots. Just ask Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who paid $775 million for Kiva last year.

The epicenter of Kiva’s innovation is a short, fat little orange robot that zips around warehouses by following a network of sensor-activated stickers laid out on the floor. They might not like the humanoid assistants you were promised in sci-fi movies as a kid. But they do some pretty amazing stuff.

You have to see it in action to really get the picture (check out the video below.) And to really get an insight into how Kiva’s story has helped changed the way shopping is done, you’ll have to hear from Mountz, the company’s founder, at Xconomy’s Hardtech Revolution event Dec. 9 in New York.

Our latest signature conference is a half-day brainstorm that explores the leading edge of high-tech innovation going on in the U.S. If you haven’t noticed, we’re now moving out of the frothiest parts of the social media age and confronting something much bigger: the real world.

That means everything from robots and 3D printers to crowdfunding and dynamic, peer-to-peer marketplaces. It’s the almost magical stuff that can happen when you have a wave of people digitally connected to each other, aided by powerful, portable computers and ever-cheaper ways of producing amazing new devices.

We’re calling this concept “Hardtech” for two reasons—there’s a lot of hardware involved, and it’s damned hard to do. That’s why, if you’re working on or care about the next wave of tech innovation, you should definitely sign up for the Hardtech Revolution. The early bird rate runs through Nov. 12.

Mountz is one of our two keynoters, joining another major player in robotics: Rod Brooks, a founder of iRobot and now CEO of Rethink Robotics, which makes a artificial intelligence-enhanced assembly line robot named Baxter (which you may have seen on 60 Minutes).

We’ll also hear from startup entrepreneurs and investors working on many aspects of the Hardtech frontier, including:

—Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of 3D printing marketplace Shapeways.

—Ayah Bdeir, CEO of open-source electronics supplier littleBits.

—Jonathan Peachey, CEO of kid-monitoring smartwatch startup Filip Technologies.

—Scott Miller, CEO of hardware crowdfunding and manufacturing service Dragon Innovation.

Head over to the event page to see more speakers and details about the event, which will take place on the afternoon of Dec. 9 at the New York headquarters of AppNexus.

We put a premium on keeping our conferences punchy, interesting, and fast-paced, with plenty of time for meeting other people, swapping stories, and noshing. If you want to hear where the next huge companies are going to come from and find out how tech is going to really affect your world, we’ll see you there.

Here’s that clip of the Kiva Robots in action:

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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