Agility Robotics names Melonee Wise CTO

After selling Fetch Robotics to Zebra Technologies in 2021 for $290 million, many have wondered what Melonee Wise would do next. Sure, she had been serving as Zebra’s VP & GM of Robotics Automation, but that was more a formality as part of the acquisition than anything else.

Well, today we got the answer. Wise is now the CTO of Agility Robotics. Agility is developing the Digit humanoid robot and is targeting warehouse applications as its first real-world tasks. Wise will be working on software and technology systems for deploying fleets of Digits in warehouses all over the country.

Wise is quite familiar with that market, of course, after building autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for warehousing applications at Fetch since founding the company in 2015. This move could help enhance Agility’s play in the logistics space. According to Agility, “Melonee brings as much (or more) experience in building and deploying robot fleets than just about anyone on the planet.”

Jonathan Hurst, co-founder of Agility Robotics, previously held the title of CTO. Hurst recently keynoted the Robotics Summit & Expo, which is produced by The Robot Report. With the hiring of Wise, Hurst will transition his role into chief robotics officer (CRO). Hurst’s bipedal locomotion research at Oregon State University is the basis on which Agility was created. Agility said this move will to more closely match with Hurst’s day-to-day work: setting Agility’s research and development roadmap, cultivating the innovation pipeline, shepherding Digit’s industrial design, and nurturing the company’s overall brand identity.

“Agility has had a great deal of highlights recently, but perhaps the most significant is the strategic growth of our leadership team over the past year and the addition of game-changing expertise that will position Agility for long-term success,” said Damion Shelton, CEO, Agility Robotics. “We’ve recently added a CCO, CFO, and COO, and created the exciting new CRO organization led by my co-founder Jonathan Hurst. Today, we’re thrilled to cap off this incredible year of leadership growth by welcoming industry luminary and well-known roboticist Melonee Wise to the team as our new CTO.”

Agility announced a number of other executive appointments as well:

  • Renuka Ayer, Chief Financial Officer (joined October 2022)
  • Rich Bohne, Chief Commercial Officer (joined June 2022)
  • Aindrea Campbell, Chief Operations Officer (joined January 2023)
  • Liz Clinkenbeard, VP of Communications (joined December 2022)
  • Pras Velegapudi, VP of Innovation and Distinguished Engineer (joined May 2023)

Digit stands about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 140 lb. Updates in the latest generation include newly designed end effectors optimized for reaching high/low, pulling, picking up, and placing objects commonly found in e-commerce and shipping warehouses, like plastic totes. Digit also has a new head with LED animated eyes, which allow for improved human-robot interaction such as using simple expressions to convey information and intent. For example, the new Digit uses body language and eye movement to indicate which direction it is about to turn.

In April 2022, Agility raised $150 million in Series B financing. DCVC and Playground Global led the funding round, which also included participation from the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund.

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