SAN FRANCISCO – Formant, which develops robot fleet management software, today announced it has acquired Formation, a robot teleoperation startup based in Pittsburgh. Formant said it will integrate Formation’s solution to enable customers to remotely control their robots through its browser-based, cloud-enabled robot fleet management system. Financial terms of the acquisition were not released.
Formant CEO Jeff Linnell said adding teleoperation to Formant’s operation will create an end-to-end solution that robots-as-a-service companies can use to scale their fleets, enabling them to easily manage thousands of robots.
“We can be there from day one, when a company creates its first robot, all the way to when it has 100,000 robots,” said Linnell. “Many early stage robotics companies struggle to get past having 10 engineers for every robot – our mission is to flip that ratio by allowing one person to manage many robots. Formation’s teleoperation technology will be key to making that happen.”
Formant’s system optimizes data flow from robots to the cloud, third-party applications and downstream apps, through its own dashboarding product that enables out-of-the-box monitoring, alerting, and intervention. Last December, the company announced raising $6 million in seed funding from SignalFire.
Formation, founded in 2018 by a small team in Pittsburgh, was driven by the growing trend of robotics companies optimizing for semi-autonomy. “What you see in the market is that most service companies rely on human intervention to some extent – especially in unstructured environments,” said James Turnshek, co-founder and CEO of Formation. “They need the ability to control every aspect of their robots remotely in real time in order to make absolutely sure things keep moving and that they’re delivering high quality of service.”
Formant said its target was the RaaS market, estimated to grow to $40 billion worldwide in the next three years – yet it also sees more traditional companies approaching robotics for process automation tasks.
“We’re getting to the point where anybody can buy a robot,” said Linnell, “and traditional companies are starting to see that it’s not whether they should embrace robotics, but when. Formant is positioned to help companies deploy a robot fleet in record time – allowing them to skip building infrastructure and get to market quickly.”
Formant said it plans to keep Formation’s office in Pittsburgh open, giving the company “a presence in both hotbeds of robotics.”