Robot Tidbits: Toyota, Amazon, Humatics, Franklin, 6 River, More

As we gear up for our Robo Madness conference at the end of the month, it’s worth noting a slew of recent developments at robotics companies around town:

—Toyota Research Institute in Cambridge, MA, has hired the 16-person software engineering team from Jaybridge Robotics, an autonomous-vehicle company also based in Cambridge. TRI is building up its office in the One Kendall Square area, near the Cambridge Brewing Company.

—IRobot has a new floor-washing robot called the Braava jet. Please don’t call it an upgraded Scooba—it’s very different, and it’s lightweight and relatively cheap ($199). This is the first new robot from the company since it divested its defense and security business to focus on connected-home robotics.

David Mindell, MIT professor of aero/astro and the history of engineering and manufacturing, is leading a startup called Humatics. The company is focusing on helping robots work better in human environments—meaning, be safer and more collaborative with people.

Joe Jones, co-founder of Harvest Automation (and veteran of iRobot), has a new startup called Franklin Robotics. Looks like it’s focused on home gardening. Rory MacKean, also formerly at Harvest Automation, is involved as well. (More on what’s happening at Harvest Automation here.)

Kiva Systems founders Mick Mountz and Pete Wurman left Amazon at the end of last year. Looking forward to seeing what they do next. Amazon acquired Kiva for $775 million in 2012, effectively spawning an era of warehouse automation systems. For example…

6 River Systems is working on e-commerce fulfillment software for warehouse and supply chain automation. The startup is led by Jerome Dubois, a former Kiva executive.

Autonomous Marine Systems raised $1.6 million in seed funding last month. The company, led by Eamon Carrig, has developed an autonomous “sailcraft” for ocean data collection and networking.

—If you want to know more about local robotics companies, the go-to source is Tom Ryden, executive director of MassRobotics. You can catch Tom and many of the folks above at our March 31 event at Google.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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