The second quarter of 2018 is about to close, and we’re coming up on the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S., which marks the unofficial start of summer. This means lots of picnics, pool parties and cookouts, but what we’re thinking about this week is pizza robots and China. While there’s a lot of debate about whether the Chinese or Italians invented the recipe, the two topics are covered in recent transactions within the robotics and artificial intelligence space.
We’re highlighting 25 transactions from recent weeks, but you can always track more investments in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type. RBR Insiders can also download the Q1 2018 Transactions Report. Our quarterly reports give further analysis on investments in this space, which grows every week!
French startup has robots that cook pizza
French startup EKIM completed its first funding round (about $2.6 million) to create a fully autonomous restaurant with “pizzaiolo robots” cooking food in front of customers. The startup said it aims to launch a restaurant in France by the end of this year, with franchise or license agreements in 2019 with the name “PAZZI” for worldwide rollouts.
Other food-cooking robots have been seen recently – a restaurant called Spyce recently opened in Boston with robots and human workers collaborating on mixed bowl dishes. In addition, Sony and Carnegie Mellon University are collaborating on creating research around the food preparation robotics space. And, of course, there’s always Flippy, the hamburger-cooking robot.
China investments in AI and robotics continues
It’s no secret that China’s government and businesses have thrown lots of money at AI and robotics companies, but the rate of investment throughout this year has continued to impress us. For example, Sinovation Ventures announced the creation of a $391 million AI fund in Guangzhou, with investments in AI, big data, education, consumption upgrade and B2B companies.
Alibaba and SenseTime have teamed up to launch a non-profit AI lab in Hong Kong, creating a global hub for artificial intelligence. Alibaba is providing financing for the “HKAI Lab” through its Hong Kong entrepreneurship fund, according to TechCrunch.
Another Alibaba division announced a $200 million Series D investment in Orbbec, a Chinese startup working on 3D sensors for facial and gesture recognition, 3D measurement and map reconstructions. These sensors could work in smartphones, robots or other smart home devices.
Chinese robotics company CowaRobot received a $21.2 million Series B round of funding from SB China Venture Capital and China Creation Ventures. The company designs autonomous, low-speed robots for street cleaning and logistics purposes, but has also developed “smart luggage” that can automatically follow its owners. This could also include smart baby strollers and other “low-speed mobile hardware” in the future.
BlueRun Ventures announced a $10 million Series A investment in Chinese VR firm NOLO. While the company is creating and developing a consumer-based VR platform, it’s worth noting for the possibility of augmented reality and virtual reality in business settings.
Additional Chinese investments, with undisclosed funding details, in the AI and robotics space that were reported by the website China Money Network included:
- China Merchants Securities Invests in Krund
- China’s Bellrobot Invests in Lobot Robot
- Shunya International Invests in Chinese Firm Univer.AI
- Chinese Firm Xinktech Gets Angel Funding
If we hear of additional information regarding these investments, we will provide updates in future roundups.
Plus One Robotics emerges from stealth for picking platform
Back in the U.S., San Antonio-based Plus One Robotics announced $2.35 million in funding along with its first commercial product – the PickOne Perception system.
The system uses 2D and 3D computer vision and machine learning software to combine with robotic grippers and arms from other robot manufacturers, the company said. It plans to target the order fulfillment and parcel shipping markets.
The company’s initial investment round was led by Schematic Ventures, with participation from Lerer Hippeau, ff Ventures, First Star, and Dynamo.
Mergers in sensors, conversational AI and fluid automation firms
There were three recent acquisitions related to the fields of AI and automation:
- Microsoft Buys Semantic Machines for Conversational AI
- Emerson Buys Fluid Automation Firm Aventics From Triton
- Siemens Building Division to Acquire Enlighted
Electric bikes, gas leaks, and trash robots, oh my
The long weekend is beckoning, so we’re going to bundle a whole bunch of these news items together.
- Electric bike maker Superpedestrian not only has a cool name, it also raised $16.5 million in funding to help expand its bike-sharing offering.
- French firm eLichens raised about $8.16 million in funding for its sensor system that can detect gas emissions in buildings.
- BP has invested $20 million in Israeli battery technology developer StoreDot, which plans to develop a smartphone fast-battery charger as well as faster-charging batteries for cars.
- RiverRoad Waste Solutions announced it made a financial investment in CleanRobotics, maker of the Trashbot system that uses robotics and AI to help sort commercial waste products.
- London-based Realeyes, which develops a system that can read a person’s emotions when they watch a video, raised $16.2 million in funding to expand its product offering.
- Granite Investment Partners bought a new position in Restoration Robotics during the first quarter.
AI applications range from inventory scanning to heart disease research
Beyond the Chinese investments in AI, other companies within the space received funding as well, including the following:
- Pensa Systems raised seed money for its autonomous retail inventory scanning system. The system uses autonomous vision capture and artificial intelligence on the back-end to help predict out-of-stock products.
- GV (formerly Google Ventures) joined the investors of Owkin, a medical startup that uses machine learning and deep learning algorithms in drug discovery research.
- io raised $5 million in Series A funding to help develop its AI-focused platform that lets real estate agents connect with prospective home sellers ahead of competitors.
- Oxford, U.K.-based Ultromics raised $13.4 million in funding to expand its AI-based technology for coronary heart disease research.
- Another company in the health outcome AI space, OM1 raised $21 million in Series B financing. The company uses standardized health information and AI to “gather, synthesize, and leverage big clinical data and registries to help customers understand, compare, and predict health outcomes.”
RBR Transaction Headline of the Week: Waterjet Robotics Pumps Up Funds for Vessel Coating System – The company makes the ENVIROBOT, an ultra high pressure water jetting system that removes coatings from marine and industrial surfaces.
Enjoy the long weekend, everyone! See you next week! Pizza robots rule!