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Tag Archives: pittsburgh

Safety and inspection bot startup Gecko Robotics adds $7 million to the coffers

Gecko Robotics aims to save human lives at our nation’s power plants with its wall-climbing robots. To continue doing so, the startup tells TechCrunch it has just secured $7 million from a cadre of high-profile sources, including Founders Fund, Mark Cuban,  The Westly Group, Justin Kan and Y Combinator. We first reported on the  Pittsburgh-based company when co-founder Jake Loosararian came to the TechCrunch TV studios to show off his device for the camera. Back then, Gecko was in the YC Spring 2016 cohort, working with several U.S. power plants and headed toward profitability, according to Loosararian.  You can see the original interview below: The type of robots Gecko makes are an important part of ensuring safety in industrial and power plant facilities as they are able to go ahead of humans to check for potential hazards.  The robots can climb tanks, boilers, pipelines and other industrial equipment using proprietary magnetic adhesion, ultra-sonics, lasers and a variety of sensors to inspect structural integrity, according to a company release. While not cheap — the robots run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 — they are also obviously a minuscule cost compared to human life. Gecko robot scaling the wall for a safety inspection at a power plant. Loosararian also mentioned his technology was faster and more accurate than what is out there at the moment by using machine learning “to solve some of the most difficult problems,” he told TechCrunch. It’s also a unique enough idea to get the attention from several seasoned investors. “There has been virtually no innovation in industrial services technology for decades,” Founders Fund partner Trae Stephens told TechCrunch in a statement. “Gecko’s robots massively reduce facility shutdown time while gathering critical performance data and preventing potentially fatal accidents. The demand for what they are building is huge.” Those interested can see the robots in action in the video below: Diesel_tank_A from Gecko Robotics, Inc on Vimeo.

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Uber’s self-driving trucks division is dead. Long live Uber self-driving cars

Uber is shuttering its self-driving trucks unit, a beleaguered program borne out of the company’s controversial multi-million acquisition of Otto nearly two years ago. The company said Monday that Uber Advanced Technologies Group will stop development of self-driving trucks and instead focus its efforts on self-driving cars. “We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team’s energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward,” Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in an emailed statement. Uber Freight, a business unit that helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, is unaffected by this decision. Uber Freight , which launched in May 2017, is designed for vetted and approved drivers, who can use it to find nearby available loads, see destination info, distance required and payment upfront. If the drivers like what they see, they can tap to book. Uber Freight, which started in three regions, is now available throughout the continental U.S. And it is considered a viable and promising business (and revenue opportunity) within the company. The business unit has expanded threefold in the past 15 months and has offices in San Francisco and Chicago. “Rather than having two groups working side by side, focused on different vehicle platforms, I want us instead collaborating as one team, according to an email reviewed by TechCrunch that was sent by Meyhofer to employees. “ I know we’re all super proud of what the Trucks team has accomplished, and we continue to see the incredible promise of self-driving technology applied to moving freight across the country. But we believe delivering on self-driving for passenger applications first, and then bringing it to freight applications down the line, is the best path forward. For now, we need the focus of one team, with one clear objective.” Uber’s self-driving trucks unit is based in San Francisco, while the team dedicated to self-driving cars is located in Pittsburgh. Uber says it will pivot employees focused on self-driving trucks to other work that supports its ongoing development of self-driving technology. If there isn’t a comparable role, Uber will offer relocation to Pittsburgh or a separation package to support the transition

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ANGLR raises $3.3 million to create a Fitbit for fishing

ANGLR , a tracking system for fisherpersons, has raised a $3.3 million Series A to add AR and wearables to their already impressive package of fishing trip management and devices to help record fishing data. That’s right… they caught a big one! Nic Wilson and Landon Bloomer started this Pittsburgh-based company to build an app that can help record and plan your fishing trips. The system has been around for five years and they’ve logged thousands of catches. They’re releasing “patent-pending connected tracking accessories” to record catch locations so you don’t have to pull out your phone while in the middle of reeling in a real beauty. “Most fishing apps let users record catches. Our platform is built around trips,” said Wilson. “Mid-July our users will be sharing the first comprehensive summaries of fishing trips. The catch is only the result of many variables coming into alignment. Our system quantifies them We work with the top weather and water data providers and have spent years mastering GPS and pathing under many fishing scenarios.” The cash, raised from KB Partners with participation from Brunswick Corporation, will help them grow their selection of wearable devices . “All fishing apps require some form of manual data entry. We’re automating it with the word’s first connected accessories and third party integrations,” said Wilson. The team started with some pretty basic technology and are now expanding past their modest beginnings. “Our first prototype was an android phone mounted to a fishing rod, which spurred a network of resources in Western PA who wanted to help get it done,” said Wilson

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Aurora hires SpaceX’s Jinnah Hosein, opens SF and Pittsburgh offices

Self-driving technology company Aurora has made some key moves on its leadership team and overall company growth: It’s bringing on SpaceX’s now former head of software engineering, Jinnah Hosein, to lead its own software engineering team in a VP role. The autonomous software provider is also opening up two new offices, including one in San Francisco, and another in Pittsburgh, in addition to its existing HQ in Palo Alto. Bringing on Hosein is a huge move for Aurora, which will now have some additional senior leadership taken to help direct and organize its growing engineering team, according to Aurora co-founder Chris Urmson . Hosein’s background includes his time as VP of Software Engineering at SpaceX, where he spent the past four years and oversaw projects including the recent successful Falcon Heavy launch. Before that, he was Director of Software Engineering at Google working on Google Cloud, site reliability and other software projects. “It’s a pretty incredible set of experiences he has,” Urmson said. “We’re just excited about him bringing that leadership capability, that experience in building both cloud and incredibly reliable software to our team and working with the rest of the folks here.” Hosein also worked for a brief time overseeing Tesla’s software operations as well as SpaceX’s when he served as acting VP of Tesla’s Autopilot Software prior to Tesla hiring Apple’s Chris Lattner for the role. Urmson says that Hosein’s proven track record launching rockets, and organizing software projects on that level of complexity is more important to Aurora than any brief time he may have spent on Autopilot, however. Aurora is also opening two new physical offices and testing locations, as mentioned, including the San Francisco one that Urmson says will be a welcome relief to some of their employees currently commuting south to Palo Alto, as well as a way to attract more talent looking to work in the city proper. The Pittsburgh office gives them a new testbed, where they can prove their tech in inclement driving conditions and adverse winter weather, and it also puts them in close proximity to Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh’s robotics talent pool. “When you combine that, between the offices we have in the South Bay, the San Francisco test areas that we’ll now have more access to and the Pittsburgh test areas, we have a pretty exciting diversity of test environments and places to operate,” Urmson added. Aurora has already announced partnerships with Volkswagen, Hyundai, Byton and more, and recently added LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Index Ventures’ Mike Volpi to its board.

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