It continues to be clear that artificial intelligence, whether used in self-driving software, enterprise data analytics, medical imaging, or a variety of other use cases, will continue to fund advances across the robotics landscape. This week was no difference from other weeks, in which AI investments made headlines.
Today, we’re highlighting 19 recent robotics transactions. If you’ve missed some other transactions from last month or earlier this year, 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 Q2 Transactions Report, which showcases and analyzes major investment trends for the past three months. It’s free for subscribers to Robotics Business Review.
AI, robotics among ‘top tech investment opportunities’
Before we jump into individual transactions this week, there was an interesting survey that came out this week from Global X. The New York-based provider of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) conducted its third annual survey of affluent investors, and robotics and AI technologies came in second place (after renewable energy) when asked which technologies represent the biggest investment opportunity when compared with other disruptive technologies.
When asked about perception of performance, respondents had different attitudes, with 55% saying that smart home devices would outperform the market in the next decade, and 49% said renewable energy technonlogies would. Mobile banking also did well in the survey, with 48% of investors saying that those companies would outperform the market, and 39% saying it was the technology that investors had the most exposure to.
Micron Invests in AI companies, research
Late last week, Micron made two announcements regarding increased investment in the artificial intelligence space. In the first announcement, the company said it would create a $100 million investment fund for startups in the AI space, through its new Micron Ventures offering.
“We are pleased to bring together the industry’s brightest thinkers, researchers, innovators and technologies to discuss AI, machine learning, and deep learning,” said Micron President and CEO Sanjay Mehrota, in a statement. The venture fund will look to invest in companies using AI for applications for augmented and virtual reality, and autonomous driving, as well as ones “advancing foundational capabilities such as deep learning.” The company has also dedicated 20% of the fund ($20 million) to fund startups led by women and other underrepresented groups.
In the second announcement, the company’s Micron Foundation announced a $1 million grant for universities and nonprofit organizations “to conduct research into how artificial intelligence can improve lives while ensuring safety, security, and privacy.”
At the Micron Insight 2018 conference where it made these announcements, Micron also awarded a total of $500,000, including funding for:
- AI4All, a nonprofit organization looking to increase diversity and inclusion in AI education, research, development, and policy.
- The Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab, which supports researchers and graduate students working on advances in computer vision, machine learning, natural-language processing, planning, and robotics.
AI investments across the landscape
Micron’s announcements gives additional evidence that artificial intelligence across the technology landscape, not just in robotics, is poised for additional growth in coming years. Several companies utilizing AI in their offerings have seen dollars flowing to them in recent weeks.
For example, Gauss Medical this week raised $20 million in Series C funding to help expand its AI-enabled platform for the operating room. The company’s iPad-based Triton platform uses digital imaging and machine learning to help monitor surgical blood loss in real time. The system, which has received de novo approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and a European CE mark, has been adopted by 50 hospitals, performing more than 200,000 infant deliveries each year.
Doctors have traditionally relied on their own subjective visual estimates of blood loss by eyeballing the surgical field. This practice is notoriously inaccurate. Attempts to weigh suction canisters and sponges are confounded by the presence of other fluids such as amniotic fluid or irrigation. Triton captures rapid scans of blood-containing sponges and canisters and uses computer vision and machine learning to estimate blood loss with significantly higher accuracy and precision.
The company said it would use the additional funding to accelerate the adoption of Triton in hospitals, and develop new AI-driven applications for the operating room.
Other AI-based company transactions included:
- Syncron, which raised $67 million for its preventative maintenance AI platform for manufacturing.
- Numerify, which raised $27.5 million for its AI-based IT analytics platform.
- Kogniz, which raised $4 million in seed funding for further development of its AI-based security system.
- Paperspace, which earned $13 million for its AI and machine-learning cloud platform for developers.
- Deep Lens, which raised $3.2 million for its AI cloud pathology platform.
Self-driving car funding remains hot
In the autonomous vehicle space, we continue to see many transactions for companies developing software for self-driving cars around the world.
Israeli startup Vayavision raised $8 million in seed funding for its self-driving perception platform. The technology combines a camera, lidar, and radar input to give a full environmental model of a driving scenario, including lane detection, object classification and tracking, traffic and road sign recognition, and free space analysis.
Another Israeli company, Cognata, announced it closed an $18.5 million funding round. The company said it plans to use the funding to grow its engineering group and rapidly expand commercial operations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Cognata developes an automotive simulation platform that combines AI, deep learning, and computer vision “to provide a realistic virtual environment that accurately simulates real-world test driving, allowing for fast and highly realistic results.”
In China, Momenta announced reaching “unicorn status”, achieving a $1B valuation with its latest undisclosed funding round. The autonomous driving company said it has attracted more than $200 million in funding since September 2016, with participation from Chinese government sources and private investors.
The company is developing intelligent systems for autonomous driving, providing options for Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs. Later this year, the company said it will deploy a large-scale test fleet to accelerate Level 4 autonomous driving development in Suzhou.
China investment in AI, robotics continues
Speaking of China, there were other investments from Chinese-based companies in the industrial robotics, and AI software space, including:
- AI, which earned $14.5 million in pre-Series A funding to continue its “gait recognition” software.
- Quotient Kinematics Machine, which earned $14 million in Series C funding for its industrial robotics platform.
- GLOTECH, which earned an undisclosed Series A round of funding.
- Kankan Smart, which raised an undisclosed Series A funding round for its retail-based Smart Eyes system.
- AI, which earned angel investment for its self-driving, ride-sharing development.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle investments keep flying high
Funding for drone companies by venture capital firms and the U.S. military remained consistent in recent weeks, including the following transactions:
- Japan’s Terra Drone invested in Sweden’s Inkonova for its aerial drone platform used in the mining industry.
- Aeronautics was awarded a $3.6 million contract to provide Orbiter 3 UAVs to the Spanish Ministry of Defence.
- LGS Innovations was awarded a $15.5 million contract by the U.S. Navy for UAV support.
Wrapping up the rest
We’re gearing up for the World Series up here in New England, after the Boston Red Sox won the American League pennant, so we’re going to wrap up this week’s transactions:
- Tomahawk Robotics raised $1.5 million in an equity sale, according to an SEC Form D filing.
- Icon, which uses 3D printing and robotics to build modular, sustainable homes quickly, earned $9 million in seed funding. Check out their cool video below.
See you next week!