Robotics roundup: Happy National Robotics Week, some exoskeletons and robotic storage wars
Have a good robotics week, to those who celebrate. I know a lot of us can’t be with our loved ones this year, which means no robotics tree, robotics baskets full of robot eggs, and green robot beer. Still, the organization of National Robotics Week is hosting a series of virtual events in 50 states until April 11.
There has been some financial news over the past week, of note as well. On Tuesday, Sarcos joined the rarefied air of robotic PSPCs. While it’s true that there has been a wave of activity on this front in the startup world, robotics companies have been slower to embrace the entire reverse merger-blank check deal. Berkshire-Gray is the only company that immediately comes to mind.
Sarcos builds robots and robotic exoskeletons that appear to have been designed for a James Cameron movie. The company has already raised a lot of money, including a $ 40 million round, in September, but it’s probably most notable to mainstream readers for being at the center of Delta’s recent high-tech push. The airline plans to use some of the company’s technology to help employees lift large payloads.
San Francisco-based Rapid Robotics has announced a $ 12 million Series A, bringing the company’s funding to $ 17.5 million so far, just after a decent-sized funding round. The company’s goal is to provide some kind of plug and play solution for robotic manufacturing, and essentially lower the barrier of entry for manufacturing automation in a range of industries.
SoftBank, which continues to be rather bullish on the space, has just acquired 40% of AutoStore for $ 2.8 billion, bringing the valuation of the Norwegian company to $ 7.7 billion. The company uses robotics to maximize warehouse storage, consolidating it into about a quarter of the space. It also already has a sizable footprint – 20,000 robots deployed at around 600 sites. By Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank:
We see AutoStore as a foundational technology that enables fast and profitable logistics for businesses around the world. We look forward to working with AutoStore to aggressively expand into end markets and geographies.
And because it can’t all be investment news (I mean, it can, but who wants that?), Some interesting research from MIT. Researchers from the school, along with researchers from Harvard and Georgia Tech, presented a robot that uses radio waves to detect hidden objects. The technology allows RF-Grasp to pick up things that are covered or that are otherwise out of sight. MIT associate professor Fadel Adib describes it as a “superhuman perception.”