BotsAndUs, the UK startup that brings autonomous robotics in public places, snaps up €5.3M funding

At present, robots and humans work together in various industries towards a better life and more efficient businesses. Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC) works wonders where the machine not only complements human capabilities but relieves him/her from dull, repetitive, and laborious tasks. 

Believes in humans and robots collaboration

Based out of London, BotsandUs strongly believe in the symbiosis of humans and robots. The UK company develops state of the art robotics and AI products by combining social sciences with human-centred design and cutting edge engineering.

Secured €5.3 million funding 

Recently, BotsandUs raised $ 6 million (approx €5.3 million) led by Kindred Capital and Capnamic Ventures, with angel investors from the UK and the US also participating in the round. Furthermore, the company was awarded funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme as well as Innovate UK.

Commenting on the event, Andrei Danescu, CEO, says: “We are in a great position to accelerate achieving our mission and liberate businesses from dull, repetitive and now even dangerous work, so their employees can focus on the things that bring the most value. We are thrilled to have such trusted and experienced investors join our cause and support the next stage of our growth. The demand for automation and robotics has seen a significant rise driven by the current global events and we’re in the best position to respond to it.”

The company intends to use this funding to grow the team, accelerate robot deployments, and explore new products and services in response to the significant increase in the demand for automation. Additionally, the robotic company aims to accelerate the deployment of its automation solutions across indoor, dynamic spaces. 

Works with Europe’s biggest retailers and airports

BotsAndUs are already collaborating with some of Europe’s biggest retailers and airports to support them across customer service and operations. Right now, the company works with clients including MediaMarktSaturn, Heathrow Airport, British Airways, and dnata, among others.

Robots and AI

Founded by Adrian Negoita and Andrei Danescu in 2015, the company is on a mission to create a fleet of autonomous service robots to work alongside people in dynamic, public spaces. Their goal is to drive efficiency across customer service, operations, and analytics. The company focuses on data capturing and automation through fleets of autonomous robots that work alongside people in dynamic, public spaces. 

Talking about the company to Silicon Canals, Andrei Danescu, CEO, says: “Our automation solutions cover two areas: customer service and operations. On the Customer Service aspect, things are quite straightforward: the robots autonomously and proactively identify and approach customers/passengers/guests, say hello to them, and try to understand if they can be of any assistance. This can be either offering information, physically guiding the person to certain locations, take payments or show promotions, etc. In BA/Heathrow, for example, they can also support check-in procedures, flights/gate directions, and duty-free purchasing. In a retail space, they can take customers to products, help them compare items, feed-in the latest promos, and offer and support the full purchase.”   

He further adds, “The on-site data collections and analysis is what the Operations robots cover. In a retail scenario, for example, our robots autonomously scan all product shelves to offer real-time product location and stock information. This real-time data is then fed into various teams at the retailers to inform decisions around product allocations per store/ area of the store, compliance (are the products properly displayed and with the correct price tags), stock availability through the website for customers, etc. In the travel sector, the units capture data such as passenger flows, leftover items, changes in layouts of the space, all to help create a seamless journey through the premises.” 

The data collected by the robots collect, and tasks they automate, enable clients to make informed business decisions that drive efficiency, reduce costs, and increase revenues.

Main image credits: BotsandUs

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Startups – Silicon Canals

RIOS comes out of stealth to announce $5M in funding for ‘industry-agnostic’ robotics

Bay Area-based robotics startup RIOS is coming out of stealth today to announce $ 5 million in funding. The round is being led by Valley Capital Partners and Morpheus Ventures, with participation from a long list of investors, including Grit Ventures, Motus Ventures, MicroVentures, Alumni Ventures Group, Fuji Corporation and NGK Spark Plug Co.

The move comes during a time of increased interest in factory automation. A number of different startups have received massive funding of late, including Berkshire Grey’s massive $ 263 million raise in January. RIOS’s raise is considerably smaller, of course, but the young company has more to prove.

Even so, investors are clearly eyeing automation with great interest amid an ongoing global pandemic that has both screeched many industries to a halt and led many to look to alternative production elements that remove the human element of virus transmission.

RIOS was founded in 2018, as a spin-out of Stanford University, with help from a number of Xerox PARC engineers. The startup has operated in stealth for the past year and a half while testing its technologies with a select group of partners.

The company’s first product is DX-1, a robot designed for a variety of industrial tasks, including static bin picking and conveyor belt operations. The system is powered by the company’s AI stack, including a perception system and a variety of tactile sensors mounted on the robotic hand.

The plan is to charge a monthly fee for the robotic system that includes a variety of services, including programming, maintenance, monitoring and regular updates.

Startups – TechCrunch

[Intuition Robotics in Wired]There’s No Cure for Covid-19 Loneliness, but Robots Can Help

Meanwhile, the ElliQ, a “digital companion” from Israeli startup Intuition Robotics designed to help the elderly, isn’t commercially available yet, but Intuition is offering a free beta program during Covid-19.

Read more here.

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[Intuition Robotics in Fast Company] We’re feeling more lonely than ever—here are 5 ways technology can help

Intuition Robotics, an Israeli startup that utilizes AI to design personalized companion technologies for the elderly, offers an interesting case study. The company has created ElliQ, a digital home companion for the elderly that responds to questions, initiates calls, makes appointments, analyzes the user’s environment, and offers entertainment and mental enrichment activities.

Read more here.

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London-based SLAMcore raises €4.4 million to meet growing demand for robotics

Today UK startup SLAMcore, which is developing spatial AI algorithms for robots and drones, has secured €4.4 million in a funding round led by Octopus Ventures and MMC Ventures, with participation from Amadeus Capital Partners. 

The funding will allow SLAMcore to meet the increasing demand of the robotics market, which has seen demand skyrocket due to COVID-19. This has occurred particularly in drone, robots and AR/VR usage, as effective robotics solutions that can support the challenges of the ‘new normal’ from staff shortages and social distancing rules in healthcare, to manufacturing and supply chains. Ground robots are already being used throughout China to spray disinfectant in hospitals and trains, and to allow doctors to test patients for COVID without any physical contact. 

However, large-scale roll-out of robots is still limited despite high demand, as companies struggle to overcome the number one cause of robotic failure: lack of spatial understanding. Robots and drones require spatial intelligence, including the ability to accurately calculate their position, understand unfamiliar surroundings, and navigate with consistent reliability. SLAMcore offers Spatial AI solutions designed to easily integrate into existing platforms, allowing robotics companies to concentrate on delivering value to the end customer.

The new funding will specifically speed up the availability of SLAMcore’s solutions, including its recently announced SDK product, a toolkit that gives developers everything they need to build, test and deploy solutions using SLAMcore algorithms and low-cost, easily available off-the-shelf sensors. 

Owen Nicholson, CEO at SLAMcore, commented: “Even before the crisis, SLAMcore was engaged in many conversations with companies – big and small – who needed a better way to solve spatial intelligence issues in robotics. Especially across sectors such as drones, robots, and AR/VR, the coronavirus pandemic has lit the touch-paper and we are primed to meet exploding demand. In the past few weeks alone, we have seen a huge spike in enquiries as robotics companies want fast solutions to get their robots to market sooner.”

Mina Samaan, Principal at MMC Ventures, commented: “We are very excited by the advancements in next generation software platforms used to drive the future of robotics. The ability to locate and map in real-time is still unsolved in the vast majority of autonomous designs. Therefore, affordable SLAM delivered as-a-service at scale is fundamental to unlocking the adoption of self-driving robots across all indoor and outdoor applications including agriculture, warehousing and last-mile delivery.”

Zoe Chambers, Principal at Octopus Ventures, commented: “In a post-pandemic world, where contactless and hygienic interactions are vital, demand for robotic solutions will only increase. Whether they’re moving around warehouses, delivering food, disinfecting hospitals or operating as security guards, robots will be interacting with multiple dynamic environments and even with humans. This means that their ability to move autonomously is absolutely fundamental. SLAMcore’s solution lies at the heart of this by giving robots spatial intelligence and we are excited to continue to back the business as the market accelerates.”


Aerones abandons industrial drones to focus on ground-based robotics as it raises $1.6M

Way back in 2018, Aerones detailed its plans to use large, industrial drones to clean wind turbines. The company had already raised $ 3.6 million to date and moved from Latvia to the San Francisco Bay Area. But things change fast in the world of startups — and sometimes that requires a rethink.

Aerones will remain in the wind turbine-cleaning business, but its methods are changing pretty dramatically. That includes a move from the aforementioned drones to a ground-based robotic system. The system utilizes a computerized winch system and a robotic arm, coupled with a small fleet of ground-based robots.

The Y Combinator-backed startup describes the system thusly:

The computerized winch system ensures the robotic arm can perform a range of inspection and maintenance tasks, including close-up photography, laser scanning of the leading edge surface, lightning conductivity tests, blade cleaning, drainage hole cleaning, and the coating of protective materials. The system enables a two-man crew to service multiple turbines every day, even performing some services at night and low in temperatures.

The company, understandably, says the new system is “more stable and effective” than the drone version. It has already piloted the system in the U.S. and Europe. All of that makes sense, but is a bit of a letdown for those seeking credible use cases for industrial drones.

Image Credits: Aerones

The shift in focus also comes with a new seed round, this time $ 1.6 million from existing investors YC and Sensum Group, and new participants, including Change Ventures. The additional funds will go toward further development of the new robotic system, as well as a further expansion into the U.S. market.

Startups – TechCrunch

[Phantom Auto in Robotics and Automation News] Autonomous Solutions Inc launches robotic unmanned yard truck solution

Phantom Auto’s remote communication layer provides a reliable link between the Mobius software and the trucks over any network, enabling monitoring, tele-assistance, and tele-driving.

Read more here.

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Robotics startup lets machines get closer as humans keep their distance

As humans get used to working at a distance from each other, a startup in Massachusetts is providing sensors that bring industrial robots in close —  centimeters away, in fact. The same technology may support future social distancing efforts on commutes, in a pilot application to allow more subway trains to run on a single track.

Humatics, an MIT spinout backed by Lockheed Martin and Airbus, makes sensors that enable fast-moving and powerful robots to work alongside humans without accidents. If daily work and personal travel to work ever go back to normal, the company believes the same precision can improve aging and crowded infrastructure, enabling trains and buses to run closer together, even as we all may have to get used to working further apart.

This is the emerging field of microlocation robotics — devices and software that help people and machines navigate collaboratively. Humatics has been testing its technology with New York’s MTA since 2018, and today is tracking five miles of a New York subway, showing the transportation authority where six of its trains are, down to the centimeter.

UWB sensors for microlocation

Humatics’ technology in the MTA pilot uses ultrawide band (UWB) radio frequencies, which are less failure-prone than Wi-Fi, GPS and cameras.

“A good example of a harsh environment is a subway tunnel,” said David Mindell, co-founder of Humatics and professor of engineering and aerospace at MIT. “They are full of dust, the temperatures can range from subzero to 100 degrees, and there is the risk of animals or people tampering with devices. Working inside these tunnels is difficult and potentially dangerous for crews, also.”

Humatics has sold more than 10,000 UWB radio beacons, the base unit for their real-time tracking system, to manufacturers of sensor systems, the company says. They pinpoint the location of hundreds of RFID tags at a range of 500 meters, using multiple tags on an object to measure orientation.

Startups – TechCrunch

Locus Robotics raises another $40M as retailers increasingly look to automate

The COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound impact on robotics, as more companies look to automation as a way forward. While wide-scale automation had long seemed like an inevitability, the pandemic is set to accelerate the push as corporations look for processes that remove the human element from the equation.

Of course, Locus Robotics hasn’t had too much of an issue raising money previously. The Massachusetts-based startup, which raised $ 26 million back in April of last year, is adding a $ 40 million Series D to its funds. That brings the full amount to north of $ 105 million. This latest round, led by Zebra Technologies, comes as the company looks to expand operations with the launch of a European HQ.

“The new funding allows Locus to accelerate expansion into global markets,” CEO Rick Faulk said in a release, “enabling us to strengthen our support of retail, industrial, healthcare, and 3PL businesses around the world as they navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that they come out stronger on the other side.”

Locus has already seen good traction here in the States for its bin-moving robots. In February, the company announced that its robots have passed 100 million units picked. The event occurred at a DHL facility in Pennsylvania. The following month, DHL agreed to deploy 1,000 of the company’s robots in 2020. In April, UPS announced that it would be piloting Locus robots in its own facilities. 

Startups – TechCrunch

[Arbe Robotics in PR Newswire] Arbe Named a Cool Vendor by Gartner in the May 2020 Cool Vendors in Autonomous Vehicle Systems

TEL AVIV, Israel, May 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Arbe, a leading provider of next-generation Imaging Radar Chipset Solution, enabling high-resolution sensing for ADAS and autonomous vehicles, today announced that it has been recognized as a Cool Vendor, in the Cool Vendors in Autonomous Vehicle Systems1 report by Gartner.

Read more here.

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