Walking through New Town, visitors will see a variety of retail shops and dining locations.
Now they’ll see something new: Robots.
“We’re excited about what we’re doing and we thought it would be cool to share with the community,” said Michael Howes, co-owner of SVT Robotics. “Part of the fun is watching people walk by and put nose prints on the glass all the way down as they watch these things run.”
The ‘things’ Howes referred to is a series of robots now on display in the Newtown storefront across the street from Buffalo Wild Wings. The machines move around in the front windows, running independently and placing items on shelves.
“This is just one type of robotic, an (Automatic Guided Vehicle) Robotic Solution, but we will have other types in this lab and showcase them,” Howes said.
SVT Robotics has offices in New Town but Howes said the business had been looking for a larger area to test their technology. When they realized the space that had previously housed Beyond Bricks, a Lego store that closed in 2015, was still available, they jumped at the chance.
The company moved their technology into the space in September, and for the first few months they kept the windows covered with paper while they set up. But eventually in February, they pulled the veils down and revealed a display that many visitors, they said, were confused by at first.
“It’s understandable, this is typically a retail location,” said A.K. Schultz, co-owner of SVT. “We get people coming to the door and asking, ‘What do you sell?’ And we get to explain it to them, show off what we have and build some energy in the community.”
SVT Robotics started as a technology business with community in mind, Howes said, as the company found its footing from Launchpad, a local facility that helps support development and growth of start-up companies.
Both owners have ties to the community as a resident and a William & Mary graduate, so they figured Williamsburg would be a good place to start their business. And since then, they’ve only wanted to continue growing in the community.
“What we found in being here and working is that this is a great community,” Howes said. “And the resources that are offered here, even though people think of the Williamsburg area as being more (tourist oriented), there’s a lot business around, there’s a lot work for business… It’s been a lot of uplift and a lot of support.”
Schultz added the support comes from all three localities in the Historic Triangle as they work to create a startup-friendly environment. The new location is just one more way the company can bring technological awareness to the community.
Schultz describes the location less as a display and more of a research and development laboratory. The space provides an area where the company can look at how their software is performing.
SVT is a company that connects businesses to robots, Schultz said, and more specifically connects large enterprises to robots. For the current research, the robots are performing acts that would be useful in large warehouses with a lot of stock.
But in the future, passersby could see robotic arms and all sorts of different technology.
“We are looking at a few other types of software that would complement some of our technology,” Schultz said. “It’s an end-to-end technology platform that aids in bringing all these disparate technologies together and make the process of deploying robotics and automation technology much faster.”