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PRN-RIA Partnership: There’s Problem Solving in Numbers

Kevin Dowling
By Kevin Dowling Founder & CEO, Pittsburgh Robotics Network & Kaarta

The Pittsburgh region is a hotbed of activity in robotics and AI. This activity includes research and technology companies that commercialize academic research and solve real world problems. Much of this activity originally stems from laboratories at Carnegie Mellon University, including the Robotics Institute and the School of Computer Science. The Robotics Institute is the largest academic laboratory in the world devoted to robotics. Today, the Pittsburgh region has many technology companies and those in the robotics area have grown quickly with many thousands of people directly involved in this sector.

One result of this activity in Pittsburgh has been the growth of large R&D satellites of tech giants, such as Google, Apple, Bosch, Uber, Facebook, Amazon and many others. Over time, the diaspora from these companies combined with students and faculty from CMU’s laboratories formed new ventures and built teams, products and companies.

These companies have gone after challenging problems in areas like autonomous vehicles and robot manipulation platforms. Today, these companies and new stealthy ones are tackling ever more challenging problems.

With all of this great activity, we saw a need to bring these folks together to form the Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN).

The PRN’s purpose is multi-fold, but initially was to attract investment capital and to attract and retain talent here in the Pittsburgh robotics sector.

We also saw a need to create an organization that facilitates communication and collaboration between these organizations and to create a point of contact with the world outside the Pittsburgh community for those who would like to participate or peer under the hood to see what we are building to see how it can solve their problems.

The PRN was formed to address these needs and satisfy the desire for people within the community to connect and collaborate.

As an example, Kaarta, has partnered with several local companies, including Carnegie Robotics, which has specific skills in assembling and integrating advanced sensor technologies. Carnegie assembles and tests our portable scanning unit, Contour, which we then provide to customers all over the world.

But Pittsburgh cannot be isolated from other major clusters, such as those in Boston and the Bay Area.

There are many opportunities to build relationships, and a number of small companies now have groups in multiple cities to go where the talent is.

We are looking beyond our own verdant hills and river valleys to people and organizations in New England and on the San Francisco Peninsula. In today’s world, we cannot be self-centered in any domain, and so we have reached out to folks in these other regions to forge relationships and build partnerships.

The Robotics Industries Association (RIA) is a key part of this outreach because it offers an industry-wide platform of activities, events, and people.

Pittsburgh offers a great deal: excellent quality of life, affordable housing, great technology breadth and depth.

While we need to get the word out about the opportunities here, we also need to recognize there are great strengths elsewhere in several areas.

In the area of newer robotics technologies, there is a pretty tight and relatively small technical community that grew up together in just a few universities across the country.

This is not enough to build a world-changing discipline, and we need to reach out beyond our own spheres of knowledge and influence.

The RIA, the PRN and related organizations are the way to do that. We have an innate need to connect, to bind and to produce.

Pittsburgh literally has more large bridges than any other city in the world. But we also need to build bridges outside of our community, and the Robotics Industries Association helps us do that.

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