Robotics as a service and a solution: mobile and autonomous robots will transform the way we live and work

Patrick Mondi, CEO,

When you think about robotics and autonomy, the first image that usually pops into your head is that of a driverless vehicle. Cars and trucks with no one behind the wheel are indeed revolutionary, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of these technologies being developed in Pittsburgh and deployed worldwide.

The Pittsburgh region is home to some 100 robotics and autonomy companies, employing over 6,000 individuals and contributing nearly $3.2 billion annually in economic activity. 

Those numbers reflect a sea change for southwestern Pennsylvania, and it didn’t happen by accident.  

Hard work by groups like The Allegheny Conference, RIDC, The Pittsburgh Robotics Network, The Pittsburgh Technology Council, our local universities and others laid the foundation for what today is a thriving tech and robotics ecosystem. It was into this fertile environment that Thoro launched in March of 2021.

Building on technology that originated at Carnegie Robotics, Thoro systems enable safe, reliable and versatile autonomous robots that can navigate around people and obstacles in highly trafficked areas like airports, retail environments, hospitals and schools.

Thoro was born in Pittsburgh, and that’s why we’re committed to giving back to our community. It’s why we’ve chosen to invest locally in the next generation of roboticists. We’re proud to join other technology leaders in support of the Upper St Clair FIRST Robotics team, with sponsorship as well as hands-on mentorship by some of our top engineers. 

We’re investing now in a workforce we’re going to depend on for decades to come.

I’m often asked about how these game-changing technologies will find their way into our everyday lives, and what we can expect as robots become a widely deployed technology. Here are a few things I think policymakers and business leaders need to keep in mind:

  • The opportunities for robotic teammates are everywhere
    The enthusiasm for robotic solutions extends to almost every sector of the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented supply-chain and labor disruptions. Businesses confronted with empty store shelves and unanswered job postings are turning to automation to address these challenges. If you’re a native of southwestern Pennsylvania you may have already seen some examples of this technology in action. Robots powered by Thoro are deployed at PPG Paints Arena, our technology helps keep Pittsburgh International Airport looking great for millions of travelers every year, and our systems are at work right now in warehouses, schools and medical facilities around the region. In almost every sector of the global economy, there is an opportunity to incorporate robotics.
  • Autonomy does not equal unemployment
    There’s a widespread fear that robots are coming to take jobs and displace millions of workers, leaving economic devastation in their wake. In my experience this simply isn’t the case. In reality, robots are joining existing teams, leading to upskilling and increased opportunities for workers. By assuming the most mundane, time-consuming and repetitive manual tasks, a robot frees up workers to perform more complex roles, adding value and transforming their existing job. The workforce of the future will have fewer workers mopping floors, and more team members managing fleets of robotic floor cleaners.
  • Implementation is just as important as technology
    When designing a system that can work safely around people in complex environments, one size does not fit all. While certain hardware and software elements can be commoditized, successful integration still comes down to a team of engineers, on the ground, understanding customer needs and integrating robotics in a way that delivers real value while retaining trust. The era of robotics as a novelty has passed; tangible ROI requires close engagement with users and operating environments. It’s more than understanding the use case; however, intelligent adaptability is also part of the equation.  We see it every day: what comes off the shelf is not as important as the ability for robotics to self-adapt inside the warehouse, school or shopping mall. 

At Thoro, we’re on a mission to deliver the benefits of autonomous mobile robotics safely and broadly. We’re excited to be a part of the compelling story being told in the Pittsburgh region, and optimistic about what lies ahead.