PITTSBURGH—Spun out of Carnegie Robotics as part of an agreement with Nilfisk in 2020, Thoro.ai has spent the past three years forming new relationships and upgrading its services and technology for mobile robots. Earlier this year, it announced that it worked with Big Joe Forklifts to develop the Big Joe Pallet Mover.
“Our real focus as a company has been on taking some world-class technology and using it to apply to indoor industrial equipment that performs manual and repetitive tasks,” Patrick Mondi, CEO of Thoro.ai, told Robotics 24/7.
The company's key differentiator is its autonomy stack, the technology that enables mobile robots to have the perception and navigation capabilities to move around environments, he said.
Thoro.ai's autonomy kit, which was originally developed in Carnegie Robotics' facility, was first featured in the Nilfisk Liberty SC50 Autonomous Scrubber back when the company launched. That robot is used to clean large venues, including hospitals, schools, and airports.
Moving beyond cleaning
When Mondi joined Thoro.ai as CEO in October 2021, he made it his mission to extend the company's reach into new applications.
“I wanted this company to be more than just an autonomous cleaning company,” Mondi said.
That's what inspired Thoro.ai to partner with Big Joe and develop the Pallet Mover, which is designed for “floor-to-floor pallet transportation and drop off.” The companies specified that while the new mover is like a traditional lift truck, it also features an integrated tablet interface, lidar sensors, and a camera system that enables its autonomy.
“We are really proud of our partnership with Big Joe because it really embodies what Thoro can do,” said Mondi.
Thoro.ai's arrangements with Nilfisk and Big Joe highlight how it operates as a business – it works with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and provides them with the technologies to make their machinery autonomous.
“We can help them with our autonomy solutions because we have the team, we have the investment, and we have the know-how,” Mondi said. “It really causes a great combination.”
The company's technology is comprised of both hardware and software systems and supported by its cloud-based infrastructure, Mondi explained. Thoro also prides itself on its adherence to safety standards. The company highlighted that the Nilfisk SC50 meets the CSA/ANSI 336 safety standard for cleaning robots.
Thoro.ai has continued to work with Carnegie Robotics to develop custom-made hardware parts for its autonomy stack, which Mondi noted integrates seamlessly with Thoro.ai's software.
“That's how we're able to operate in so many diverse environments, from the busiest, most complex warehouses to empty school gyms and everything in between,” he said.
While Carnegie Robotics is helping the company develop hardware and is an investor, Mondi stressed that it is a separate entity.
“We're totally independent from Carnegie Robotics, but it's a relationship we value,” he said.
On the software front, Mondi highlighted both the company's autonomy advancements and cloud app, which customers can access to see important data and insights into how the machines are operating.
“It's more than just basic performance data,” he said. “We're seeing a lot of interest on the logistics side, for example, in the use of the cloud app to provide insights and optimization of workflows. There's value to the insights our cloud app provides. It's very lightweight, and it's available for OEMs and their customers to use.”
Mondi looks to the future
It's an exciting time for Thoro.ai as it begins to realize the benefits of operating in two different industries – cleaning and logistics, Mondi explained.
“What we're seeing is that some of the innovations on one benefits the other,” he said.
For example, Mondi noted that Thoro.ai developed dynamic mapping software to account for the rapid changes in logistics environments. This allowed the company's robots to map environments more accurately as they moved around.
Thoro.ai has been able to apply that technology to its cleaning robots to allow them to clean in new environments and to clean more thoroughly in challenging environments.
“We're starting to see this mutually beneficial wheel of innovation emerging from the different environments and applications that we are involved in,” said Mondi.
With the launch of the Big Joe Pallet Mover behind it, Thoro.ai is spending much of its time both continuing to support Nilfisk and SC50 and building interest in its new pallet mover. It's also in talks with some future OEM partners, Mondi said.
“We aim to continue to build the business with world-class partners like Nilfisk, Big Joe, and others in the future,” he said.
Patrick Mondi of Thoro.ai at ProMat 2023
About the Author
Cesareo ContrerasCesareo Contreras was associate editor at Robotics 24/7. Prior to working at Peerless Media, he was an award-winning reporter at the Metrowest Daily News and Milford Daily News in Massachusetts. Contreras is a graduate of Framingham State University and has a keen interest in the human side of emerging technologies.
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The Big Joe Pallet Mover was featured at ProMat 2023.