CalTV: Advancing Technologies & AMR – Impact to Industry, Manufacturing and Commercial Environments

Host of CalTV, Joe Gemma, welcomed renowned robotics engineer Melonee Wise, VP of Robotics Automation at Zebra Technologies. Wise is one of six winners of the coveted 2022 Engelberger Award Winner – the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in the robotics industry – and nicknamed the “Robot Ninja” for her impressive work in the field.

Wise’s journey to her current elite status came about in a rather random and unpredictable way. While working on her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she became disinterested with her studies and began working on autonomous cars as a side project. Even though industrial robotics dominated the field in the early years of the 21st century, Wise fell in love with modern robotics.

Her side projects opened the door for a visit to California to work on converting a Ford Escape Hybrid into a fly-by-wire for autonomous control. When completed, the re-engineered Ford was demonstrated to the decision makers involved in launching Willow Garage, a robotics research lab and technology incubator for personal robotics applications. She was invited to join the company and after a bit of hesitancy, they offered to pay off her college debt to become part of the team.

Wise couldn’t refuse the generous offer. Working with Willow Garage officially launched her robotics career, and according to Wise, stumbling “into what became the most influential robotics companies in the last 50 years.” Since then, Wise went on to become co-founder and CEO of Fetch Robotics, which was sold to Zebra Technologies in 2021.

Gemma and Wise continued to discuss Wise’s exciting achievements, her thoughts on the current and future state of the robotics industry, advancing technology, and the impact robotics are having in manufacturing and commercial environments.

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