We’ve already seen lots of end-of-year transactions in the robotics and artificial intelligence space, and this week was no different. Across the landscape, many companies received their holiday bonuses early, in the form of new funding and investments.
Today, we’re highlighting 17 recent robotics and AI transactions. If you’ve missed some other transactions from the past months, you can track them in the RBR Transactions Database. Our regularly updated database lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type.
If you’re an RBR Insider, don’t forget to check out the Q3 Transactions Report, which showcases and analyzes major investments from July through September 2018. It’s free for Insider subscribers to Robotics Business Review.
Robot companies remain in the spotlight
Continuing the trend from last week in the “gripping” space, this week RightHand Robotics, which provides robotic grippers as part of its larger robotics platform for pick and pack applications, raised $23 million in Series B funding. In addition to the funding, the Somerville, Mass.-based company announced that Mick Mountz, the founder and former CEO of Kiva Systems, will be joining RightHand’s board of directors.
Elementary Robotics, which is developing a robotics platform, announced raising $3.6 million in seed funding this week, including participation from Toyota AI Ventures as part of its call for innovation program that it launched this summer.
“Our goal is to design affordable, intelligent robot assistants that are safe and easy to program, and we’re thrilled to receive funding and support from Toyota AI Ventures as we continue our journey to build the next generation of robotics,” said Arye Barnehama, CEO and founder of Elementary Robotics. The company is the 16th portfolio company announced by Toyota AI Ventures.
Another one of those portfolio companies receiving holiday bonuses is Sea Machines Robotics, which this week announced a $10 million Series A funding round. The company is developing autonomous boats and other shipping vessels.
Sea Machines said it will use the fundings to “expand the sales and global reach of its recently released line of products, grow the R&D and engineering teams, roll out new product feature sets, and further the company’s lead in developing advanced situational awareness systems for vessels.”
International robot enjoy holiday bonuses
In Croatia, startup Gideon Brothers announced the release of its commercial logistics robot and revealed its list of investors, having raised $1.95 million in seed funding. The company also announced deals with three major distributors in Croatia for pilot testing programs of its mobile logistics robot.
In Germany, Munich-based Metis Motion raised $1.13 million to continue development of its lightweight actuators. The spinoff from Siemens plans to use the money to prepare prototypes for production, and expand its team.
Consumer robots find some funding love
As the industry prepares for next month’s International CES event in Las Vegas, where robotics will play a large part, a few companies are receiving some well-deserved holiday bonuses from investors.
Temi, which makes a mobile “personal robot” that include telepresence, announced earning $21 million in Series B funding this week. The official launch of the robot will be at CES, and we plan on meeting with the company to learn more about it’s plans.
Misty Robotics raised $11 million in additional funding as a follow-on to its Series A funding round from June 2017, according to an SEC filing. Misty said in a statement that “we plan to use the new funds to get Misty II to market and ramp up sales in 2019.”
Better human-robot communication
Understanding what robots are doing so that non-roboticists can better work with them is a goal for Formant, which this week announced $6 million in seed funding. The company, which is still in “stealth mode,” said it is “creating the first robot-data management solution aimed at arming businesses with the tools and infrastructure needed to gather and understand complex feedback from their robotic fleets.”
The company was founded by Jeff Linnell, the former director of robotics at Google, who it said “brings more than a decade of experience in robotic system design, manufacturing, and deployment.”
Joining Linnell as the company’s CTO is Anthony Jules, who also worked at Google and Redwood Robotics, which was building a collaborative robot arm prior to its acquisition by Google. The company plans to launch its first product in 2019.
“We founded Formant to answer the biggest problem that faces automation today: robots produce too much information, in disparate forms that cannot be viewed simultaneously,” stated Linnell. “By drawing together and translating these vast torrents of data, we can help operators and engineers speak robot – understanding their robotics operations holistically and providing the groundwork to scale faster than previously before.”
AI Corner: Data, learning, and a big score for Graphcore
- AI chip maker Graphcore announced a $200 million Series D funding round for further expansion of its solutions, including investments from BMW and Microsoft.
- Getting data into a format that data analysts can use effectively is the problem that Import.io is taking on, through a combination of machine learning and AI algorithms. The company announced raising $15.5 million in new funding to further develop its solution.
- In China, AI firm 4Paradigm announced $145 million in new funding for its financial technology platform. The company also said that the government’s five major banks are investors in the company.
- In the enterprise software space, Dataiku scored $101 million for expansion of its platform, which uses AI to optimize marketing budgets, enable maintenance services, anticipate market trends, or detect fraud, among other applications.
Humans+AI in self-driving space?
In the autonomous vehicle space, we’ve seen cases where AI is helping drivers with assisting them, but a lot of people are hoping that the car takes over completely. Until we get there, a new concept has arisen – remote assistance for self-driving car where a human takes over remotely when the AI can’t figure out what to do. Ottopia this week announced closing $3 million in seed funding to develop its platform.
“Within certain boundaries, [autonomous vehicles] can drive themselves 99 percent of the time; however, there is a growing consensus that the last one percent is still many years away,” Ottopia said in a statement. “That is where teleoperation comes in. An AV can call a human back-up to help it resolve undpredictable or unsafe situations.”
The company’s software platform allows a human operator and the car’s AI to work together during a remote intervention, where the human assists the AV with decision-making in a complex scenario. “The AV then executes that decision and navigates with a full suite of sensors and safety measures engaged.”
Blippar enters insolvency
Not everyone got holiday bonuses. A few months after it announced raising $37 million in Series-E funding, augmented reality firm Blippar announced it had entered insolvency. In a blog post, the company said it needed a small amount of new funding in addition to the funding announced in September, to fulfill its strategy of reaching profitability.
“That funding was secured, but it ultimately required shareholders’ approval for Blippar to access it,” the company said in the post. “Regrettably, one shareholder voted against the additional funding, effectively blocking the investment even if they were not asked to participate in any further financing of the business.”
Wrapping up the rest
We’re getting ready for Santa’s annual visit, so here are some remaining transactions in the robotics and automation space.
- NoTraffic Raises Funding for IoT-based Traffic Management Platform
- SoftBank Invests in Cambridge Mobile Telematics for Vehicle Analytics Platform
- Boeing Earns $90M Navy Contract for Unmanned Refueling Vehicle
- AEye Adds Investors to Series B Funding Round
We’re going to take a well-deserved rest from the column next week, so look for our next report on Jan. 4, 2019, wrapping up the year and getting a jump on 2019 transactions. Happy holidays, everyone!