Heartland Robotics, the stealthy startup focused on manufacturing robotics, has just raised a $30 million Series C round, according to a release to the company, though it contains few details about the company’s product. It was also announced that the company is changing its name to Rethink Robotics.

The new funding will be used to launch the company’s first product.

The round was led by Sigma Partners, with participation from Draper Fisher Jurvetson as well as the company’s existing investors which includes Highland Capital, Charles River Ventures, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

So what do we know about Hea– I mean, Rethink…

  1. It’s first product is slated to launch between now and January 2013
  2. Its founder is Rodney Brooks, iRobot co-founder and former MIT professor
  3. It’s based out of the Innovation District

Beyond that, Scott Kirsner’s post from 2010 had more details on the product than I’ve seen anywhere else:

Visitors to Heartland describe a light-weight robot that looks like a human from the waist up, with a torso; either one or two arms with grippers; and a camera where you might expect the head to be. The robot is on a rolling base rather than legs; it can be moved around but it doesn’t move autonomously. The robotic arm and gripper can be quickly trained to do a repetitive task just by moving them — no software code required — and I’m told the robot has a sense for when people get close, so that it doesn’t pose a safety hazard for humans working alongside it. The company is apparently targeting a $5,000 price point, and has been talking with BMW and Procter & Gamble as prospective customers.

Kirsner has also noted that Brooks sees the power of his robot in the software that can be written for it. That’s also part of what makes iRobot’s Ava so interesting to me, as I covered here. The promise of software with a robot attached is a powerful one.

I was at iRobot week before last and asked CEO Colin Angle about the strength of New England’s robotics cluster, something you hear about a lot in the context of economic development. Perhaps he’s biased, but he believes it’s quite formidable and listed off iRobot, Heartland/Rethink, Harvest (agricultural robotics), Kiva (purchased by Amazon), and Symbotic to illustrate his point.

In any case, another big milestone for Rethink. I’ll look forward to learning more.