Cambridge-based Vecna Technologies acquires VGo, maker of telepresence robots

Erin Tally and her son Aidan chatted with Dr. Brian Rosman of Children’s Hospital from their Ashland home by using a Vgo robot.
Bill Greene/Globe Staff/File 2011
Erin Tally and her son Aidan chatted with Dr. Brian Rosman of Children’s Hospital from their Ashland home by using a Vgo robot.

Vecna Technologies of Cambridge is buying VGo Communications, a New Hampshire maker of telepresence robots.

Both companies build robots that can operate safely among people. Vecna’s sturdy, boxy bots-on-wheels trundle around medical centers and warehouses hauling loads. VGo’s signature product is a small camera system on a 3-foot mobile platform that can be remotely controlled.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The relocation of employees from VGo’s Nashua office to Vecna’s headquarters is already underway.

Daniel Theobald, Vecna’s chief technology officer and founder, said the company will continue to support and build on VGo’s technology.

“Obviously there’s a very strong health care synergy,” Theobald said. “It’s one of their largest markets, it’s one of our largest markets, and there’s a lot of opportunity to enhance their product.”

VGo was founded in 2007 by iRobot alumnus Tom Ryden. Its customers have included companies like Verizon, Intel, GE, and Audi.

The company’s telepresence bots have been used by doctors to provide remote care to children recovering at home and for education, giving kids who cannot attend class a presence in school via the robot.

“By joining the Vecna family, VGo customers are going to gain more solutions and extended reach,” said VGo chief executive Peter Vicars.

Vecna’s “QC Bot” can wheel around a medical facility and deliver supplies when summoned. Hospitals within the Partners HealthCare network in Boston are among Vecna’s customers. Department of Veterans Affairs clinics in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain use the company’s electronic kiosks to manage patient visits. Vecna is also building robots that can be used in factories and warehouses to lift and move items.

The executives of the two companies said earlier partnerships were precursors to the merger.

When Deborah Theobald, chairwoman of Vecna’s philanthropic arm, left for Monrovia to test the abilities of a robot during the Ebola response, she took a VGo telepresence bot with her. When Vecna held a first-ever “robot race” inviting companies, universities, and children everywhere to participate, VGo was the first to sign up.

Both Ryden and Theobald are among the leaders of the Mass. TLC Robotics Cluster, a trade group that aims to raise the power and profile of local robotics businesses through collaborations among companies, industry groups, and academia.

“This was a natural outcome of [a] closer and closer collaboration,” Theobald said.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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