Humatics, Vecna Partner to Improve Navigation of Self-Driving Robots

Humatics, a Waltham, MA-based startup developing microlocation technology for use in robots and autonomous vehicles, has a new partnership underway with Boston-based Vecna Robotics.

Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed, but Humatics co-founder and CEO David Mindell describes the relationship as a joint marketing partnership. “We bring customers to them and vice-versa,” he says.

Humatics was spun out of MIT in 2015 to develop a spatial intelligence platform revolving around location and navigation  at the centimeter and millimeter level. Traditional GPS navigation relies on satellites and only gives the general location of a person, place, or thing. The object’s actual position could be up to 10 meters away, and the company says that’s not precise enough for the automated, connected future—plus, it doesn’t work indoors.

Humatics says its platform can use radio-frequency transponders to pinpoint the location of multiple moving targets. The transponders can be networked together—strung throughout a factory, for example, or mounted on an autonomous vehicle—to provide more precise positioning than traditional GPS systems, and at what Mindell says is a fraction of the cost.

As part of its arrangement with Vecna, Humatics’ KinetIQ 300 microlocation system will be integrated into Vecna’s fleet of autonomous vehicles, allowing them to navigate difficult-to-access areas, such as warehouse loading docks as well as outdoor environments. Humatics’ technology will also help Vecna’s autonomous mobile robots detect centimeter-sized objects from nearly 500 yards away, increasing navigation efficiency.

“Our technology will augment [Vecna’s] autonomous perception and navigation systems and allow them to work in more complex, dynamic environments,” Mindell explains, which will help Vecna provide “more flexible, reliable, and precise” navigation to its customers.

It’s been a busy year so far for Humatics. The company recently completed its move into a new facility in Waltham, which Mindell says is a “great, open industrial space.” In January, Humatics announced a $28 million Series A funding round led by Tenfore Holdings..

Mindell says Humatics is currently “hot in the throes of product development” and in the midst of testing its KinetIQ system in preparation for large-scale commercial deployment. A millimeter-level system, still under development, has been “making great strides” and is expected to be released in early 2020.

Humatics currently has 68 employees, 20 of whom work out of an office in Huntsville, AL. Mindell says the company will have some New York City-related news to announce later in the year, although he can’t yet reveal what it is. Humatics also recently completed a large pilot with Eckhart, the Michigan-based industrial supplier.

“We’ll be talking more about that in a few weeks, but we’re very happy with it,” Mindell says. Humatics has also experienced an uptick in partnership interest from companies like Vecna. “We really have the sense that the industry is coming to us. Lots of new relationships came out of the Automate show [held earlier this month].”

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