Clearpath developing ‘futuristic’ robots

UW grads’ company develop driverless robots to ‘interact with humans’ in a warehouse setting

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

Robots are becoming an important and exciting factor in many industries with the help of Clearpath Robotics. The company is based out of Kitchener and sells robots to over 40 countries around the world and serves over 500 customers.

Recently, they received $14 million in funding from the United States venture firm, RRE Ventures.The funding will go toward the development of new technology as well as expanding their workforce.

“To date, Clearpath has really been focused on research and development,” said Meghan Hennessey, marketing communications manager at Clearpath Robotics.

“So developing products that are research platforms — vehicles that can be used by researchers around the world to help them take their research to the field and do testing to work on these next generations robotics technology.”

The new technology is in the sector of industrial robotics, more specifically designing robots that will handle materials in warehouse environments.

One of the things Clearpath will be doing is working with developments in SLAM technology, this is simultaneous localization and mapping, which involves researchers developing “techniques to help them localize the robots, understand their environment and then map it out.”

They will apply this to their industrial robotics which will be used inside of warehouses. Warehouses will be able to take Clearpath’s robotic platform and software, place it in their environment and it will do its job. According to Hennessey, this is quite futuristic for the industry.

Hennessey said this is similar technology to what is being used in driverless cars, but applied to a different setting.

“What’s really cool about these is they’re safety rated,” she continued.

“So they can interact with humans in ways that traditional or conventional industrial warehouse robots haven’t been able to.”

For example, if a robot is going along an aisle and a human or object passes in front of it, it will stop and allow it to pass.

According to Hennessey, they should have prototypes of their next industrial robot by late spring or early summer this year with a possible launch in the fall.

Clearpath currently has 80 employees and are hoping over the next 18 to 24 months to have around 140.

They will be hiring people across all areas of their company, from operations to marketing support, but Hennessey noted their need for engineers.

“The reason they started the business here and decided to keep the business here … is because of the excellent talent pool that surrounds this area with Wilfrid Laurier and University of Waterloo and Conestoga College,” she said.

“It’s fantastic especially as we’re a growing company we want to embrace that young, innovative group of people that are coming out of university and take them in to be a part of something big.”

In particular they enjoy being able to provide jobs to mechatronics graduates from UW. This is a fairly new program which the co-founders of Clearpath — Matthew Rendall, Ryan Gariepy, Patrick Martinson and Bryan Webb — actually graduated from. According to Hennessey there aren’t a lot of jobs out there yet for mechatronics graduates.

“For Clearpath to be able to fill even a little bit of that void with the opportunities that are directly related to the mechatronics is really exciting for us,” she said.

As of late, Hennessey said they have noticed that the general public has become more aware of robots in the world.

“We think there’s a huge opportunity for robotics to enter essentially any industry,” she said. “For Clearpath robotics we expect to automate anything that moves. If it has wheels, we’ll automate it.”


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