Agility Robotics announces executive moves to strengthen Digit commercialization

Digit at the 2024 Robotics Summit & Expo. Credit: Eugene Demaitre

Agility Robotics today announced changes to its executive team as it productizes and commercializes its Digit humanoid robot. The company added experienced technology leader Daniel Diez as chief strategy officer.

Agility Robotics also said that Melonee Wise is moving from chief technology officer to the role of chief product officer (CPO). In addition, Pras Velagapudi is stepping into the role of CTO, effective immediately. 

“As the only company with a humanoid robot already delivering useful work to customers, Agility is shaping the future of labor,” stated Peggy Johnson, CEO of Agility Robotics. “Today, we’re strengthening our exceptional leadership team to jump on this massive market opportunity.”

“Daniel brings an outstanding track record of leading business transformation and corporate strategy, and when it comes to deploying fleet-level robotics solutions in logistics and manufacturing operations, Melonee’s and Pras’s technical, product, and commercial experience are unbeatable,” she added. “I’m thrilled to have their expert leadership in these new and expanded roles as we prepare for commercial scale.”

Corvallis, Ore.-based Agility Robotics said its mission is “to build robot partners that augment the human workforce, ultimately enabling humans to be more human.” The company described Digit as a “bipedal mobile manipulation robot” (MMR) and as “the first multi-purpose, human-centric robot that is made for work.” The system has been in trials for logistics tasks at Amazon and GXO Logistics.

Jonathan Hurst, co-founder and chief robot officer of Agility Robotics, delivered a keynote address about the technical challenges of building humanoids at the Robotics Summit & Expo earlier this month. Digit won the inaugural RBR50 Robot of the Year Award.

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Wise moves from CTO to chief product officer

Agility Robotics said that, since joining it as CTO in May 2023, Wise has transformed how the company approaches product development as it prepares to bring its products to market at scale. In addition to leading Agility’s engineering and technology efforts, Wise created and led the team that conceived, built, and launched Agility Arc, a cloud platform for deploying and managing fleets of Digits with other automation.

Melonee Wise, chief product officer, Agility Robotics

In the expanded role of CPO, Wise will continue to lead Agility’s engineering team in addition to the newly formed product organization. 

Wise has years of experience in the robotics industry. Prior to joining Agility in 2023, she was the vice president of robotics automation at Zebra Technologies. Before that, Wise was CEO of Fetch Robotics until its acquisition by Zebra in 2021.

Previously, Wise was the second employee at Willow Garage, where she led a team of engineers developing next-generation robot hardware and software, including the Robot Operating System (ROS), the PR2, and TurtleBot. Wise serves as a robotics board member for the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).

Throughout her career, Wise has received many accolades and awards including the MIT Technology Review TR35, Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s 2021 Supply Chain Woman of the Year, the 2022 Engelberger Award, and as one of “eight CEOs changing the way we work” by Business Insider.

Wise received a B.S. in mechanical engineering and physics engineering and an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois.

Velagapudi becomes Agility CTO

“In the year since he joined Agility, Velagapudi has galvanized the company’s AI strategy and shown repeated breakthroughs in using AI to accelerate Digit’s commercial capabilities,” said the company. “As CTO, he will continue to focus on pragmatic product-relevant innovations, operationalizing the company’s research and development efforts, and exploring new technologies, with an emphasis on applying modern and emerging AI to enable commercial scale.”

Pras Velagapudi, CTO, Agility Robotics

Velagapudi has decades of experience in robotics planning and control, as well as in creating and deploying robots into home, industrial, and outdoor environments. Before joining Agility as vice president of innovation and chief architect in 2023, he was a vice president of engineering and chief architect of mobile robotics at Berkshire Grey, deploying fleets of hundreds of robots to logistics applications.

In addition, Velagapudi is co-founder of Platypus, a low-cost Android-based fleet infrastructure for small autonomous robotic boats to collect environmental data on bodies of water. Prior to that, he led electrical systems design and engineering at RedZone Robotics, a subterranean pipe-inspection robot provider.

Velagapudi received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, where he also served as adjunct faculty and project scientist for many years. 

Daniel Diez to set go-to-market strategy

As chief strategy officer, Diez is responsible for setting Agility’s overall business and go-to-market strategy, working closely with Johnson, said the company. In this role, he will also lead all marketing and communications efforts to build the company’s reputation and grow awareness and demand for Digit as the company enters its next phase of commercial growth. 

Daniel Diez, chief strategy officer, Agility Robotics

Diez joins Agility from Magic Leap, where he led its transformation from a consumer technology startup to an enterprise technology company. He was responsible for the commercial launch of Magic Leap 2.

Most recently, Diez served as chief commercial officer at Magic Leap, overseeing business development, sales, customer experience, ecosystem solutions, developer relations, marketing, brand, communications, public affairs, and government relations. He previously held the roles of chief transformation officer and chief marketing officer at Magic Leap. 

Prior to joining Magic Leap, Diez served as chief marketing officer and head of product at Transform Brands, the owner of the Kenmore appliance brand. Before that, he was the global chief marketing officer for R/GA, a global marketing and innovation agency, and he helped lead the company’s transformation from a digital marketing agency to a global advertising and brand transformation powerhouse. 

Throughout his career, Diez has been an advocate for corporate citizenship and his passion for creating positive change extends beyond the world of business. He serves on the board of the LGBT Community Center in New York and has previously served as a pro bono marketing and communications consultant for non-profit organizations including the Ad Council and the Human Rights Campaign.

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