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Hyundai Buys Boston Dynamics In $1.1B Deal

The South Korean automaker Hyundai Motors has announced that it's reached a deal to buy an 80% stake in the robotics company Boston Dynamics from its owner SoftBank. The acquisition is reported as a $1.1 billion deal, implying that Hyundai is paying in the ballpark of $880 million for its 80% stake, while the remaining 20% will be held by SoftBank and its affiliates. With an 80% stake, Hyundai has control of Boston Dynamics, which has drawn fame for its autonomous legged robots; the two-legged humanoid-like Atlas and the four-legged dog-like Spot which are both pictured above. In a press statement , Hyundai notes that it'll make use of Boston Dynamics to improve its in-house manufacturing capabilities while providing more funding for the company to grow and sell its products to other customers. Hyundai itself says it's looking to expand into the humanoid robot market over time, an area where Boston Dynamics' expertise proves very useful. Basically, Hyundai is making a

Meet MIT's Self-Driving "Roboat"

Photo: MIT CSAIL The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) never seems to run out of delivering cool stuff, if not a back-flipping dog-like robot  or using machine learning to identify new drugs  or the first direct image of a black hole . Now, we've spotted yet another which was unveiled recently and we'll like to show you, an autonomous boat that's aptly named "Roboat". This October, researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) unveiled an autonomous boat that can ferry itself at sea. In this case, the Roboat is aimed at ferrying humans and not just goods as self-driving boats have already begun doing for some years.  The new Roboat, actually the second make hence its name 'Roboat II' is five years in the making and was tested at the canals of the city of Amsterdam for three hours wherein it collected data and returned back to its original location with an error margin of just 0.17 meters, researchers s

Percepto Teams Up With Boston Dynamics

Percepto is an Israeli startup that's developed an autonomous drone for visual inspection of industrial sites. Now, the company has announced that it's integrated its autonomous drone, named Sparrow , with a robot dog made by Boston Dynamics that's known as Spot .  Together, Sparrow and Spot form a tag team that'll inspect industrial sites whereas Spot is the dog on the ground while Sparrow is the bird in the air. The aim is to assign inspection rounds that are usually done at industrial sites by humans to robots, whereas a human will just need to be in control of the robots as they do their work.  Working together, the Spot robot will feature equipment for high-resolution imaging and thermal vision to detect issues relayed from the Sparrow drone, which features custom software built by Percepto for visual data management and analysis. Thanks to a partnership between Percepto and  Boston Dynamics, the Israeli autonomous drone startup will offer inspection

Hyundai Eyes Boston Dynamics Buy

  Marc Raibert, Founder & CEO, Boston Dynamics. Photo credit:  Web Summit ,  licensed under  CC BY 2.0 Korean automaker Hyundai is in talks to acquire robot maker Boston Dynamics from its current owner SoftBank, according to a report [paywalled] from Bloomberg that cites "people familiar with the matter". According to Bloomberg , Hyundai is seeking to take control of Boston Dynamics in a transaction valued as much as $1 billion.  It's such that a  Hyundai acquisition of Boston Dynamics would make the Korean automaker the robotics company's third owner in seven years. First, Boston Dynamics was acquired by Google in 2013 and was housed under the company before another sale to Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank in 2017. Hyundai wouldn't be a surprising acquirer for Boston Dynamics given the automaker has major use for industrial robots. Boston Dynamics is more akin to a research organization rather than a business, churning out sophisticated robots that, howe

Ocado Buys Kindred Systems

  "File:Ocado warehouse bots.jpg"   by  Techwords  is licensed under  CC BY-SA 4.0 Ocado, the British online grocery retailer, has announced that it's acquired Kindred Systems, a San Francisco-based startup that builds robots used to pick and pack online orders. Ocado is coughing up $262 million in cash for Kindred, which was founded in 2014 and has raised $80 million in outside funding as a private standalone company.  Among investors in Kindred who are beneficiaries of its acquisition include big names like Chinese tech giant Tencent and venture capital firms DCVC and First Round Capital. Ocado is a major online grocer in the UK that operates no stores and only runs home deliveries from its warehouses. Much of the company's warehousing work is automated with software and robots and will apparently be even more so thanks to Kindred's acquisition.  It's such that Ocado has seen a big surge in sales as the coronavirus pandemic has widely driven up the demand f

Agility Robotics Lands $20M Round

  Photo credit: Agility Robotics Agility Robotics, an Oregon-based robotics startup, has announced that it's raised $20 million in new funding co-led by DCVC and Playground Global, with participation from Sony, TDK Ventures, MFV Partners, and the Industrial Technology Investment Corporation (ITIC). The new funding brings the total amount of capital that Agility has raised since its inception to $29 million.  Agility says it'll put the new funding towards meeting the demand for its legged robots from logistics providers and e-commerce retailers. The company's main product is a humanoid robot named Digit  that's capable of basic tasks such as walking, stair climbing, and autonomous navigation. Thanks to improvised arms that can perform basic manipulation tasks, Digit is adopted by logistics providers and retailers to help handle the movement of goods and items within restricted areas. For example, Agility early this year reached a deal to sell robots to automaker Ford, wh

Tertill Names iRobot Veteran As CEO

Helen Greiner. Photo credit: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch, licensed under Creative Commons Tertill, a gardening robot startup, has named a new Chief Executive and Chairman by the name of Helen Greiner, who is herself notably a co-founder of robotics powerhouse iRobot and also a founder of Aria Insights, a now-shuttered company that worked on drones for the commercial and military markets. Tertill, a startup that's best known for its garden weeding robot, will now be led by Greiner, a robotics veteran with high standing in the industry.  Tertill (formerly Franklin Robotics) is still a small upstart, founded five years ago and backed by a relatively little $1 million in funding so far. The company's flagship product is a solar-powered plant weeding robot that's tailored for use in small gardens, as demonstrated in the video below;   Greiner seems like an ideal candidate to lead Tertill, having previously co-founded a robotics powerhouse and stayed at the com

Exotec Bags $90 Million Round

Photo credit: Exotec Exotec, a French warehouse robotics startup, has announced that it's raised $90 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm 83North, with participation from Dell Technologies Capital, Iris Capital, and Breega. Exotec says it'll use the new funding to fuel its international development, particularly in the US state of Atlanta and the Japanese capital of Tokyo, and with an ultimate ambition to begin churning out as much as 4,000 robots each year by 2021. Exotec makes warehouse robots used by retailers and e-commerce companies to organize their warehouse fulfillment operations. The company's flagship product is the  Skypod warehouse robot that's currently adopted by customers including French retail giant Carrefour and Japan's Fast Retailing, which is one of the biggest retailers in the country. Exotec, which is based out of France, has sought new international clients to boost business and has seemingly succeeded in doing so, with the

Volansi Bags $50 Million

VOLY C10 long-range drone. Photo credit: Volansi Volansi, a California-based startup that develops long-range automated delivery drones, has announced that it's raised $50 million in a Series B round led by venture capital firm Icon Ventures, with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Y Combinator along with new investors Harpoon Ventures and the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund. The new funding adds up the total amount that Volansi has raised since its founding in 2015 to $75 million. Under the terms of the funding, Volansi is adding Icon Ventures managing partner Joe Horowitz and Lightspeed founding partner Barry Eggers to its board. The company says it'll use the new funding to expand its team and launch new projects. Volansi has come up with two custom long-range delivery drones that it uses to run deliveries for private enterprises as well as governmental organizations like the U.S. Department of Defense. The company's most powerful

Attabotics Nabs $50 Million Round

Attabotics CEO Scott Gravelle. Photo credit: Citrus Photo/TED, under Creative Commons license Attabotics, a Canadian startup that makes warehouse robots, has raised $50 million in Series C funding led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board along with industrial conglomerate Honeywell, a previous investor in the company. With the new funding, Attabotics has now raised a total of $83 million in equity funding since its inception. The company says it'll deploy the new capital to invest in new technologies and scale its manufacturing operations. Attabotics is a robotics company based out of Calgary, Canada. The company develops warehouse robots used by retailers to facilitate order fulfillment operations. Founded in 2016, Attabotics has been recognized as one of Canada's top and most promising startups. Before now, the company had raised funding from investors including Comcast Ventures, Coatue Management, and Forerunner Ventures. Despite being based in Canada,

The Robot Dog Scanning Ford's Factory

Fluffy the robot dog. Photo credit: Ford Fluffy is the name given to a four-legged dog-like robot by its handler. The robot, in particular, is one that's stationed at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant of American automaker Ford, where they're part of a pilot program to begin using sophisticated robots to laser scan giant factories in order to collect needed data for retooling and maintenance by engineers. The aim is to be able to scan large factories cheaply and more quickly, as Ford says it currently typically costs about $300,000 and takes up to two weeks to scan one of its manufacturing facilities. Ford is leasing two robots, Fluffy and Spot (the actual name) by nicknames, from robotics company Boston Dynamics. Boston Dynamics, once a Google-owned company but now wholly owned by Japan's SoftBank, began developing robots more than two decades ago but only began commercializing them (for private customers) just this year. The company opened commercial sales

CloudMinds Shies Away From US Listing

Arms of a CloudMinds robot. Photo credit: CloudMinds Chinese robotics company CloudMinds is shying away from a planned public listing in the US and towards one in China after its business in the U.S. dwindled due to a recent blacklist from the government. Due to the blacklist, U.S. companies have found it hard to purchase CloudMinds' products and the company has lost almost 75% of orders in the country as a result. Also, CloudMinds has cut 80% of its U.S. workforce as a result. “Definitely, we will not consider listing in the US any more after the sanctions,” CloudMinds CEO Bill Huang recently stated in an interview with the South China Morning Post . As a result of CloudMinds' recent blacklist, the company was banned from buying US products without the approval of the government on the grounds of posing a “significant risk” of supplying U.S. tech for military use in China. CloudMinds was recently blacklisted alongside other well known Chinese firms such as Qihoo 3

DJI Debuts New Industrial Drone

DJI Matrice 300 RTK . Photo credit: DJI Chinese drone maker DJI has debuted yet another drone, this time, a drone made for industrial use. The new drone is called the  Matrice 300  RTK, ' M300 RTK' for short. It's equipped with advanced artificial intelligence capabilities and a 6-directional positioning system among other features. The new drone can fly up to 55 minutes at a stretch, a record compared to similar industrial drones. The M300 RTK can stream images at a resolution of 1080p and can be controlled from as far as 15 kilometers away. It's able to lift loads of up to 2.7 kilograms, able to support not just one load but three simultaneous loads. The Matrice 300 is designed for data collection and aerial surveys, use cases that come in handy for industrial firms. DJI touts the new drone as "inspired by today’s modern aircraft" and somewhat backs up that assertion with a singular display that merges real-time flight and navigation data. Other

Soft Robotics Nabs $23 Million "Oversubscribed" Series B

Soft Robotics CEO Carl Vause. Image by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary, via  CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. Soft Robotics, a Bedford, Massachusetts-based robotics startup, has announced $23 million in Series B funding. The funding round, which Soft Robotics termed as "oversubscribed", a description entailing a great deal of interest from investors, was co-led by Calibrate Ventures and Material Impact, with participation from Yamaha, Tekfen Ventures, Honeywell, Scale, Hyperplane and FANUC, a well-known maker of industrial robots. Soft's new funding follows a similarly-sized $20 million round closed in May 2018, a round it also termed as oversubscribed. Not coincidentally, all the participants in Soft's Series B round except FANUC also participated in that previous round. FANUC, a leading manufacturer of industrial robots, happens to be a strategic investor, having partnered with Soft Robotics to create a product that was unveiled in Japan in Decembe

Shopify Acquires 6 River Systems For $450 Million

Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke Photo by David Fitzgerald/Collision via Sportsfile Shopify has announced it has reached a deal to acquire 6 River Systems, a Massachusetts-based maker of warehouse robots, for $450 million in cash and stock. This acquisition is a strategic one that comes shortly after Shopify announced  it'll spend $1 billion to set up a network of fulfillment centers in the U.S. to help its merchants deliver goods faster and at lesser costs. Shopify has a likely target with this move: Amazon, and is seemingly acquiring 6 River Systems to ensure its fulfillment centers are on par with that of the Seattle-based e-commerce giant. Amazon makes use of an army of warehouse robots, and made a similar acquisition to Shopify's in 2012; that of Kiva Systems, a developer of warehouse robots it paid $775 million for. Interestingly, 6 River Systems was founded by former Kiva executives. The $450 million figure is split into 60% cash and the remaining 40% in Shopify shar

Starship Raises $40 Million Series A Funding

A Starship autonomous robot image: Starship Technologies Starship Technologies, a San Francisco-based startup that makes autonomous delivery robots, has announced $40 million in Series A funding led by Morpheus Ventures, with participation from Matrix Partners, Shasta Ventures, MetaPlanet Holdings, TDK Ventures, Qu Ventures and more. This round included, Starship has now raised $85 million in total funding. San Francisco-based Starship has completed 100,000 commercial deliveries on its robots. Its robots are dispersed at several university campuses, with plans underway to expand to 100 more of such campuses in the next 24 months. Starship's robots recently got deployed at the University of Pittsburgh. Not long from now (on the 9th of September), Purdue University will be getting the robots, with more campuses following shortly. "This new investment will see Starship expand onto more campuses as we head towards a goal of offering our services to over one million s

Postmates Obtains Permit To Test Delivery Robots In SF

Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann image: Postmates If you're an avid reader of The Techie, you should remember that cute little delivery robot Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann recently took to a Fortune Brainstorm Tech  event. Not long ago, Postmates revealed that the robot, named Serve , will use lidars made by Ouster, a San-Francisco based startup that's competing with a whole lot of other startups to capture a share of the lidar market, mainly from market leader Velodyne. Postmates has drawn lots of attention to its delivery robot since it first unveiled it last year. The San Francisco-based on-demand delivery startup happens to have done that again, after announcing that it's been granted a formal permit to test its delivery robots [on sidewalks] in the city of San Francisco. Before now, Postmates tested its robot only in Los Angeles, which it plans to first deploy them in. Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann (left) picks up an order from the Serve robot Phot

Toyota Taps Preferred Networks For Joint Robotics R&D

Toyota's Human Support Robot (HSR) image: Toyota Toyota has tapped Preferred Networks, a quite popular Japanese AI startup, for joint research and development in the robotics field. Both companies will work together [with an aim] to develop service robots based on Toyota's  Human Support Robots' (HSR) own robotics platform. The HSR is a basic robot that's designed to be able to work alongside persons in typical domestic settings. The robots are capable of basic work such as picking up and lifting objects, and have potential uses in preventative care and health management. By combining their respective technologies and expertise, both firms are looking to develop service robots that are capable of working in typical living environments, and executing domestic tasks. As part of the joint R&D, Toyota will first loan several dozen Human Support Robots to Preferred Networks. Over three following years, both companies will then collaborate on research and deve

Ten Robotics Startups To Watch This Year

Skydio co-founder and CEO Adam Bry Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch Robotics is a wide field with several use cases, including healthcare, warehouse and inventory management, security, bionics, industrial ops, agriculture, education and more. Startups in this industry collectively  raised $2.7 billion in VC funding in 2017, signalling solid investor confidence in the industry. Between 2018 and so far this year, several robotics startups have collectively raised hundreds of millions in funding, a recent example being Fetch Robotics, which is fresh off $46 million in Series C funding . A big acquisition also happened this year; Johnson & Johnson's purchase of Auris Health for $3.4 billion , with additional payments of up to $2.35 billion tied to certain milestones. Auris develops surgical robots used for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in the human lung. Activities like the aforementioned indicate the robotics field is a very promising one. Tha

Postmates To Use Ouster Lidars For Delivery Robot

Postmates' delivery robot, Serve, equipped with the Ouster OS1 lidar sensor image: Postmates Not long ago, Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann was accompanied by a cute little delivery robot  to a Fortune Brainstorm Tech event. The robot - called 'Serve' -- was first unveiled last year. It currently roams on sidewalks in Los Angeles, making short distance on-demand deliveries. As conventionally known, autonomous robots make use of various sensors including lidars to navigate. These sensors enable robots to measure distance to a target and move towards that target. Velodyne lidars are the most used in self-driving vehicles and robots, although there's much competition from other lidar makers like Luminar, Quanergy, Blackmore, and more. If observed closely, Postmates' initially unveiled robot spotted a lidar different from that of the robot which recently accompanied its CEO Lehmann to the Fortune event. One could get curious as to which lidar the company decid

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