It seems we’ve reached the point in this exceedingly strange science fiction story where the humanoid robots arrive. The headless humanoid robots.

Welcome to the future, Pittsburgh.

Digit. Photo courtesy of Agility Robotics.

Agility Robotics opens in Lawrenceville

Take a seat, self-driving cars. Oregon-based Agility Robotics — which makes robots that work with humans in warehouses — has opened an office in Robotics Row in Lawrenceville, where CEO Damion Shelton is based.

It’s not clear, however, when we’ll get a look at their signature robot, Digit.

Digit is a little over 5 feet tall, and has weird backward-jointed legs that allow the robot to move forward, backward and sideways, and also crouch and go up and down inclines. Digit pauses when it sees a person or barrier in its path, can use its arms, hands and feet for balance, and can pick up and put down objects.

No need for a head. Doesn’t make it look less creepy, though.

Digit. Photo courtesy of Agility Robotics.

The company just raised $150 million and employs about 100 people, mostly in Oregon. It’s currently opening offices in Palo Alto (Silicon Valley) and Pittsburgh.

Plus One Robotics opens in Oakland

The pandemic has created a perfect storm in the warehouse business — supply shortages are colliding with significant labor shortages. That, of course, leaves room for robotics in warehousing and distribution centers.

That’s why San Antonio-based Plus One Robotics is opening an office in Oakland. The company devises software that links AI-powered perception tools to the increased coordination capabilities of robots, which helps them with placement and sorting tasks.

The relatively new Pittsburgh Robotics Network — which combines efforts of more than 100 robotics companies and organizations to promote and expand the region’s robotics cluster — hails this as an early victory.

Photo courtesy of DipJar.

DipJar startup moves HQ from Boston to Mt.Lebanon

Outside of Silicon Valley, the Boston area looms largest in just about every technological field — having Harvard, MIT and dozens of other top schools helps in that regard. For a long time, the talent traffic was mostly one-way, as grads and ideas flowed from Pittsburgh to Boston to find capital. Now, however, it’s getting to be a bit more of a two-way street.

Startup DipJar (work on that name) is moving its headquarters to 607 Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon to support its “giving technology” platform that allows charities and nonprofits to collect credit card donations as easily as dropping cash in a collection tin. Now based in 3,500 square feet of space, the company employs five people in Pittsburgh (15 total) and plans to double its workforce by the end of the year.

“This is an important time in DipJar’s history, and we’re excited to open our new corporate headquarters here in Pittsburgh,” says CEO Chris Selland. “Pittsburgh has everything we’re seeking: a well-educated workforce, a growing tech community and a reputation as a rapidly emerging hub for fintech and nonprofit innovation.”

Photo courtesy of GeekWire.

GeekWire returns to check out Pittsburgh tech

It’s every Pittsburgher’s right to complain, which we do like it’s our job. Occasionally, though, someone — usually from somewhere else — points out when we have something special going on.

Seattle-based tech chronicle GeekWire sent a bunch of their writers to Pittsburgh back when Amazon was playing its passive-aggressive HQ2 game with American cities, and the Steel City was a finalist. They did a great job, finding interesting stories everywhere they looked.

Of course, we didn’t get HQ2, but the GeekWire staff apparently had a great time — some of them mused about moving here permanently. They reflected a bit on how much tech money had changed Seattle (sometimes for the better, but often not), and saw a lot of opportunities amidst Pittsburgh’s vast reserves of technical talent (and empty houses).

Now, they’re returning to investigate how much has changed in Pittsburgh and whether the city is living up to the vast potential that they noted back in 2018.

We get it, geez (blush). Thanks. But what about traffic/parking/expensive condos, etc.?

Nova Place welcomes Castle Biosciences and Gecko Robotics

If the steel industry’s collapse has taught us anything (and hopefully it has), it’s that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, economically speaking. While the robotics business seems like a good bet for the future, few sectors are stronger right now than life sciences.

Pittsburgh has some strengths here, too — though life sciences companies tend to take a long time to gestate and scale up. One promising recent development is the arrival of Castle Biosciences in Nova Place on the North Side. The company is taking about 44,000 square feet of space and plans to expand.

The publicly traded, Houston-based company joins Pittsburgh startup Gecko Robotics, which is taking 70,000 square feet of space and opening on Monday, May 9.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.