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Robot Investments Weekly: Healthcare, Household Robots Raise Money as Funds Flourish

January 12, 2018      

Robot Investments Weekly recaps the past week’s transactions across the global robotics industry. For more information, Robotics Business Review subscribers can access our Transactions Database to stay up to date on the key mergers and acquisitions, investments, public offerings, and government funding developments. Search, sort, and print by transaction type, date, or industry.

As we catch up from the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, there’s no shortage of robot investments to round up.

Bissel invests in Maidbot

The Jetsons‘ Rosie the Robot took a step closer to reality this past week with Maidbot Inc.‘s funding round, led by vacuum cleaner maker Bissell Inc. In addition, 1517 Fund, Comet Labs, and Rough Draft Ventures participated in the round, but no amount was specified.

Bissel and Maidbot are working on “Rosie,” a cleaning robot for the hospitality industry. “Housekeepers have one of the highest injury rates in the hotel industry and the entire private sector, according to a 2012 report by UCLA,” said the companies.

While many technologies start out with the military or industrial use before being scaled for consumers, robotic vacuum cleaners may move in the opposite direction.

“We have seen the adoption and impact of robotic vacuums in households, and we believe that we are going to see similar trends in commercial cleaning for spaces like hospitality and office,” said Ryan McLean, a senior vice president at Bissell.

Investment firm buys encoder maker AMO

Germany-based investment firm Dr. Johannes Heidenhain GmbH has purchased AMO Corp., which makes linear and angular encoders for precision feedback. No amount was specified.

The companies said that such encoders are useful for automation, machine tool, medical, and semiconductor operations. Versions of the encoders or interfaces work with FANUC, Mitsubishi, and Yaskawa products.

AMO’s sales operations will be located at Heidenhain’s offices in Schaumburg, Ill., and its engineering team will remain in Austria.

Intuition Robotics wins funding, CES acclaim

CES this week named Intuition Robotics Ltd., whose ElliQ is designed to help the elderly stay physically and socially active, a Best of Innovation Winner in the Household category. The “active aging companion” is a tabletop appliance with a swivel head for interaction and voice and tablet interfaces.

Dor Skuler and ElliQ

Intuition Robotics’ Dor Skuler with ElliQ.

Intuition Robotics continued its good week with $6 million in investment from Samsung Next, Glory Ventures, and Sparx Group. This brings total funding so far to $22 million, and Toyota AI Ventures, iRobot, and Bloomberg Ventures have also supported the company.

ElliQ is entering beta testing in California and Florida, and Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics, told Robotics Business Review at CES that the company plans to put ElliQ in production by year’s end.

People often ask us what robots they can expect to see in households soon, and here is one answer. Short-handed human caregivers and seniors hoping to “age in place” have something to look forward to.

Aura Group, TNB Ventures join forces for new fund

Although the number of automation-dedicated funds remains small, more options are emerging for investors. Singapore-based TNB Ventures and Australia-based Aura Group have closed their joint TNB Aura Fund 1 with a “hard cap” of $22.5 million (U.S.).

The fund is intended to support robotics, IoT, big data, AI, and visualization technologies.

The joint fund prefers “B2B companies that can provide complementary value to each other, even if it’s across industry verticals,” said Hazel Yeo, the head of business development at TNB Ventures. “TNB Aura Fund 1 provides go-to-market support and opportunities through our extensive corporate partner network — we run several corporate innovation programs with Ascendas, Magna, CrimsonLogic, Maritime Port of Authority, Asian Development Bank — within the broad theme of ‘smart city,’ which is very synergistic to the frontier technologies focus of our fund.”

Diligent Robotics gets seed funding for hospital robotics

Diligent Robotics Logo

True Ventures led a $2.1 million seed funding round for Diligent Robotics that included Boom Capital, Next Coast Ventures, and Pathbreaker Ventures. Diligent Robotics is building an autonomous service robot that would free up clinical staffers to spend more time with patients.

“We build the artificial intelligence that enables service robots to collaborate with people and adapt to dynamic human environments,” said Dr. Vivian Chu, Diligent Robotics co-founder and chief technology officer. “Diligent Robotics is delivering a new class of hospital service robots by building a solution with manipulation capabilities that can autonomously navigate a hospital to perform collaborative tasks with nursing staff.”

Cognitiv offers $100M to early-stage tech businesses

Continuing the robot investments theme, the OurCrowd crowdfunding platform has established a $100 million fund for startups working on artificial intelligence, robotics, digital manufacturing, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The OurCrowd First fund was successful for agricultural technology, 3D printing, and digital health in 2016, helping the Israel-based firm decide on its next targets.

“This growth from $12 million under management to a proposed new $100 million fund is reflective of the rapid and dramatic growth of the fund management business within the OurCrowd platform and underscores our expanding global reach and the power and vibrancy of our unique ecosystem,” said Jon Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd.

Hair-transplant firm is acquired

Interwest Venture Management Co. has purchased stock in Restoration Robotics Inc., which makes the ARTAS hair-transplant system. In October, Restoration Robotics raised $22.5 million in its initial public offering.

Praxis Aerospace adds drone trainer Unmanned Experts to robotics portfolio

Praxis Aerospace Concepts International Ltd. (PACI) has acquired the training courses of Unmanned Experts Inc. (UMEX). Henderson, Nevada-based PACI develops robots and unmanned systems for air, land, and sea. Denver-based UMEX provides drone training and certification programs, including specializations in telecommunications infrastructure.

“UMEX’s suite of courseware and robust learning management system enhances PACI’s portfolio of multimodal robotics training,” said Jonathan Daniels, CEO of PACI. “Together with our recently updated public safety and military curriculum, the expanded portfolio completes our commercial product line by providing an unparalleled capacity with a decidedly international flair.”

LG invests in Robotis to continue robot expansion

LG Electronics has invested 9 billion won ($8.5 million) in South Korea-based Robotis, which makes actuators, controllers, sensors, and software for robots. Robotis also makes educational robots.

LG, which received harsh criticism for the performance of its CLOi social robot during a CES keynote, is interested in expanding its robot investments, with robots in airports, smart homes, and retail stores, as well as self-driving cars.

“We will keep on expanding our investment and partnerships with other companies to raise the competitiveness of our robot business,” a spokesperson told Korea JoongAng Daily.

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