Last week, Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corp. announced it was purchasing RE2 Robotics Inc. for $100 million. Sarcos provides commercial exoskeletons and teleoperated manipulation systems for the utilities, defense, and other industries.
The Salt Lake City-based robotics company said it was buying Pittsburgh-based RE2 to expand into new markets.
RE2 was formed out of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center in 2001. The company makes robotic arms that are used in the defense, medical, construction, energy, and undersea industries.
Purchase nearly doubles Sarcos engineering team
By acquiring RE2, Sarcos said it hopes to be able to broaden its customer base and bring on more talent. The company said the RE2 staff nearly doubles the size of its engineering team.
With the acquisition, which will be paid $30 million in cash and $70 million in Sarcos common stock, all RE2 staffers will be retained, and President and CEO Jorgen Pedersen will become Sarcos’ chief operating officer.
Sarcos will also now have a presence in Pittsburgh's Robotics Row, one of the biggest robotics hubs in the U.S.
Joining forces to improve automation in unstructured environments
Robotics 24/7 had a chance to catch up with Pedersen and Sarcos President and CEO Kiva Allgood to discuss when the two companies will be fully integrated, their similar and contrasting technologies, and the next steps.
RE2 takes advantage of artificial intelligence, computer vision, machine learning, robotics hardware, and more to make its products. Its Sapien line of products includes the RE2 Sapien 6M and the undersea RE2 Sapien Sea Class. Since 2010, the company has sold more than 650 robot arms.
Sarcos robot product line includes the Guardian XO exoskeleton suit, the Guardian XT teleoperated system, the Guardian GT dexterous robot, and the Guardian S remote visual and inspection robot. The company also has a defense unit where it does business with federal, state, local and international governments.
Allgood said that RE2 is a good fit for Sarcos because it makes “complementary technologies.” Together, they will be able to serve many industries under one company.
“Think about the fact that we will basically have products anywhere from undersea to the operating room, to heavy lift to light lift. We’ve now just really expanded our capabilities for all of our customers,” Allgood said.
In the release announcing the merger, the companies said they will also take advantage of each other's technologies to improve automation in unstructured environments, noting they will use “RE2’s Detect outdoor computer vision solution and Intellect autonomy software along with the Sarcos Cybernetic Training for Autonomous Robots (CYTAR) AI and machine learning program.”
RE2 brand lives on—for now
For now, RE2 will keep its brand for a little while, but over time, the company will assume the Sarcos name. The goal is to operate as one unified company after the acquisition is completed by the second financial quarter, said Pedersen and Allgood.
Pedersen said he has been having conversations about RE2 joining Sacros for a few years. He said he has known some of the founders of the company for a long time. A few years ago, Pedersen met Ben Wolff, executive chairman and co-founder of Sarcos.
The two hit it off, and they came to the realization that both companies had similar missions. Each is trying to solve real-world labor problems through the use of robotics. Ever since, the companies have been in discussions.
And now, by combining forces, they now have more manpower and resources.
“Right out of the gate, we have access to additional talent in special needs, whether it be controls or simulation or other disciplines that we can tap into to accelerate development,” Pedersen said.
“But we also have complementary technology, so we have a much broader toolbox [of technologies] that we can reach into to figure out, ‘Is there another way we could solve this problem or a better way, or could we combine these two technologies?’” he added.
Pedersen used RE2’s Imitative Controller as an example. An operator uses the controller with the company’s mobile manipulation systems.
What the company hasn’t yet done is make a digital controller in virtual reality. He said Sacros has the technology that could let RE2 explore that as an option.
Bringing products to market faster
While the companies have been developing different types of technologies, they also have been working on similar types of projects, Allgood said, noting that both Sarcos and RE2 have been developing autonomous path-planning programs and have been focused on solar installation applications.
While their approaches to working on those projects may have been done differently, they are more or less aligned. Together, those kinds of projects will now have even more support, and the companies will be able to bring products to market faster, she said.
Pedersen said he is excited to see the teams work together and solve problems.
“When you bring these two disparate engineering teams together and you bring new perspectives together, that’s when you’re going to see the light bulb go off, and people say, ‘Wow, neither of us had thought about it this way,’” he said. “It’s just natural human tendency. You just get into a certain way of doing things. When you bring in fresh perspectives, that’s when you see innovation emerge.”
Sarcos arrives in Pittsburgh
Allgood said Sarcos is looking forward to having a bigger presence in Pittsburgh.
“From our point of view, we are really tapping into a center and a city that has dedicated a lot of time, energy, and their resources into that space,” Allgood said. “From my perspective, it really gives us the opportunity to expand and go where we want to go and commercialize our products.”
As someone who has been in Pittsburgh for 30 years, Pedersen said he has seen the area grow into “the robotics capital of the world.”
“Pittsburgh is really no longer the steel town,” he said. “Pittsburgh is this tech hub of hardworking people. This transaction is a reflection of how much Pittsburgh has changed and what Pittsburgh is becoming,” he said.