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Tag: robotics

Robotic Automations

Tesla layoffs, Cybertruck recalls and Serve Robotics goes public | TechCrunch


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Tesla is back in the news cycle and our crystal ball says it’s one of those long-term affairs. The week kicked off with layoffs — about 10% of its more than 140,000-person workforce — and CEO Elon Musk declaring he was going “balls to the wall” on autonomy. It ended with a Cybertruck recall. Cool cool.

There’s lots more in the newsletter than just Tesla — although before we move on, do check out Sean O’Kane’s scoop about the company’s 1,800-mile Tesla Semi charging corridor program. Read on to catch up on Serve Robotics’ public market debut, a week of highs and lows for Waymo, and more.

Let’s go! 

A little bird

While much of our focus is on startups and Silicon Valley, we do have some little birds in Washington, D.C.

A little bird told us recently that federal regulators are getting close to publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on autonomous vehicle regulations, which would be the first set of federal guardrails proposed for the industry.

Our source said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates commercial vehicles in the U.S., should have a proposal out by this summer, fall at the latest. We’re told that the federal ruling on AVs will likely establish a minimum safety standard for AVs to operate on public roads but that state governments could enforce stricter regulations within their own borders. We’ve been hearing about discussions and plans around federal AV regulations for years now. Have we finally started to make headway? We shall see. 

Got a tip for us? Email Kirsten Korosec at [email protected], Sean O’Kane at [email protected] or Rebecca Bellan at [email protected]. If you prefer to remain anonymousclick here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

Deal of the week

Serve Robotics, the Nvidia- and Uber-backed sidewalk robot delivery company, hit the public markets this week via a reverse merger. Serve expects its public debut to bring in around $40 million in gross proceeds, funding that will go toward R&D for future robots, manufacturing of new robots, geographic expansion and more.

Serve’s goal is to increase its fleet from the 100 robots deployed today around Los Angeles to 2,000 robots across multiple U.S. cities by the end of 2025, via a partnership with Uber Eats. Serve has huge revenue ambitions, with plans to generate between $60 million and $80 million in annual revenue by that same deadline. In 2023, Serve brought in $207,545 in revenue at a loss of $1.5 million.

FWIW, Uber and Nvidia are still shareholders, but their shares in the company are decreasing with this debut. Pre-IPO, Uber and Nvidia held a 16.6% stake and 14.3% stake, respectively. Once the offering closes, those stakes will change to 11.5% and 10.1%, per regulatory filings.

Serve’s share price was $4 at market open on Thursday, and it closed that day at around $3.

Other deals that got my attention …

Found Energy, a startup that uses waste aluminum to generate heat and hydrogen, raised a $12 million seed round, but Tim De Chant’s story on the company is about so much more.

Getir, a Turkish delivery company that was once worth $12 billion, is reportedly weighing asset sales and exits from non-core markets as investors put the pressure on to cut losses.

Swtch Energy, a company building EV charging solutions for apartment buildings, raised $27.2 million in a Series B to expand its charging network and boost the tech behind its charging and energy management solutions. Blue Earth Capital led the round with participation from Alantra’s Energy Transition Fund Klima, Active Impact Investments and GIGA Investments Corp.

Notable reads and other tidbits

ADAS

Mobileye has secured orders to ship 46 million of its EyeQ6 Light ADAS chips over the next few years to automakers. Multiple models launching this year will feature the chip, which promises to deliver improved sensing of wet roads, detection of and reaction to objects at a greater distance, and better ability to read key text phrases on road signs. TechCrunch had the chance to dig into this, and our main takeaways are that automakers will probably love this chip because it’s more powerful than Mobileye’s last chip, but it’s the same price.

Autonomous vehicles

Waymo has begun initial data collection and mapping in Atlanta, the company’s latest geographic win. The Alphabet-owned company didn’t say whether it plans to launch in the Georgian city or any other city it is mapping in, such as Washington, D.C., and Buffalo. Aside from San Francisco, Waymo has launched commercial robotaxi services in Los Angeles and Phoenix, with Austin planned for the end of this year.

But with ups, come downs. Six Waymo vehicles also got caught blocking traffic to an on-ramp in San Francisco. The vehicles were caught between a construction zone and the on-ramp and had to pull over to await rescue. A spokesperson told TechCrunch that while Waymo does have the green light to go fully driverless on freeways in San Francisco, the company has not yet pulled the driver out.

Electric vehicles, charging & batteries

General Motors launched a home EV charger and vehicle-to-home (V2H) kit that lets a home pull energy from an EV battery in the event of a blackout. Customers in California, Florida, Texas, Michigan and New York can purchase today.

Gogoro, the two-wheeler battery-swapping company, and TSMC, a global semiconductor company, are partnering to introduce 15 GoStations across Taiwan that use 100% clean energy. They’ll also be launching Gogoro’s scooter-sharing service in TSMC’s headquarter city, Hsinchu, and expanding the charging network in the city.

TeslaCrunch

We’ve been all over Tesla this week, so let’s dive in.

The week started out with company-wide layoffs that affected at least 10% of the entire 140,000-person organization, with some teams seeing 20% of their staff gutted. Two high-profile executives departed Tesla as well: Drew Baglino, Tesla’s SVP of Powertrain and Energy, and Rohan Patel, VP of Public Policy and Business Development. Patel told TechCrunch he left because of “[b]ig overall changes” at the company that he declined to specify. In an email sent to the company, CEO Elon Musk said the cuts were necessary to increase productivity and prepare for Tesla’s “next phase of growth.”

(Psssst! Don’t want to read about Tesla layoffs and what comes next? You can watch about it instead.)

Many of those who were cut, sources say, were high performers who just happened to be working on lower-priority projects. Sources at Tesla also told TechCrunch the company made the cuts because it expects poor first-quarter earnings. Deliveries were subpar, and all those price cuts last year that continued early into 2024 likely had an effect on Tesla’s margins. Deliveries were down in Q1 year-over-year, despite the $200,000 Tesla spent on advertising on X, per our reporting.

Which might be why Tesla ditched its EV inventory price discounts this week. On X, Musk said this move was in line with Tesla’s strategy to “streamline the whole Tesla sales and delivery system.”

These changes in general, and the layoffs in particular, are made more stark by Tesla’s proxy statement that calls on the board to reinstate Musk’s $56 billion payout, which a Delaware judge earlier this year voided. In a huff, Musk threatened to reincorporate Tesla in Texas instead, and it appears that plan will also be put to the board soon.

Meanwhile, on the charging front, Tesla is moving forward with its plan to build an electric big rig charging corridor stretching from Texas to California, despite being snubbed by a lucrative federal funding program that’s part of Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure law.

Tesla this week also had to recall the 3,878 Cybertrucks that it has delivered to customers to date over faulty accelerator pedals that can get stuck. I know what you’re thinking. Finally we know how many Cybertrucks Tesla delivered.

This week’s wheels

I’ve been in a handful of new vehicles and I’m eager to share my thoughts, but we’re also running out of space this week. In the coming issues, we’ll have some takes on electric bikes, the 2024 Lexus LC 500h, the 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter and more.

See y’all next week!


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Collaborative Robotics is prioritizing ‘human problem solving’ over humanoid forms | TechCrunch


Humanoids have sucked a lot of the air out of the room. It is, after all, a lot easier to generate press for robots that look and move like humans. Ultimately, however, both the efficacy and scalability of such designs have yet to be proven out. For a while now, Collaborative Robotics founder Brad Porter has eschewed robots that look like people. Machines that can potentially reason like people, however, is another thing entirely.

As the two-year-old startup’s name implies, Collaborative Robotics (Cobot for short) is interested in the ways in which humans and robots will collaborate, moving forward. The company has yet to unveil its system, though last year, Porter told me that the “novel cobot” system is neither humanoid nor a mobile manipulator mounted to the back of an autonomous mobile robot (AMR).

The system has, however, begun to be deployed in select sites.

“Getting our first robots in the field earlier this year, coupled with today’s investment, are major milestones as we bring cobots with human-level capability into the industries of today,” Porter says. “We see a virtuous cycle where more robots in the field lead to improved AI and a more cost-effective supply chain.”

Further deployment will be helped along by a fresh $100 million Series B, led by General Catalyst and featuring Bison Ventures, Industry Ventures and Lux Capital. That brings the Bay Area firm’s total funding up to $140 million. General Catalyst’s Teresa Carlson is also joining the company in an advisory role.

Cobot has the pedigree, as well, with staff that includes former Apple, Meta, Google, Microsoft, NASA and Waymo employees. Porter himself spent more than 13 years at Amazon. When his run with the company ended in summer 2020, he was leading the retail giant’s industrial robotics team.

Amazon became one of the world’s top drivers and consumer of industrial robotics during that time, and the company’s now ubiquitous AMRs stand as a testament to the efficiency of pairing human and robot workers together.

AI will, naturally, be foundational to the company’s promise of “human problem solving,” while the move away from the humanoid form factor is a bid, in part, to reduce the cost of entry for deploying these systems.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Robots can make jobs less meaningful for human colleagues | TechCrunch


Much has been (and will continue to be) written about automation’s impact on the jobs market. In the short term, many employers have complained of an inability to fill roles and retain workers, further accelerating robotic adoption. The long-term impact these sorts of sweeping changes will have on the job market going forward remains to be seen.

One aspect of the conversation that is oft neglected, however, is how human workers feel about their robotic colleagues. There’s a lot to be said for systems that augment or remove the more backbreaking aspects of blue-collar work. But could the technology also have a negative impact on worker morale? Both things can certainly be true at once.

The Brookings Institute this week issued results gleaned from several surveys conducted over the past decade and a half to evaluate the impact that robotics have on job “meaningfulness.” The think tank defines the admittedly abstract notion thusly:

“In exploring what makes work meaningful, we rely on self-determination theory. According to this theory, satisfying three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness—is key for motivating workers and enabling them to experience purpose through their work.”

Data was culled from worker surveys carried out in 14 industries across 20 countries in Europe, cross-referenced with robot deployment data issued by the International Federation of Robotics. Industries surveyed included automotive, chemical products, food and beverage and metal production, among others.

The institute reports a negative impact to worker-perceived meaningfulness and autonomy levels.

“If robot adoption in the food and beverages industry were to increase to match that of the automotive industry,” Brookings notes, “we estimate a staggering 6.8% decrease in work meaningfulness and a 7.5% decrease in autonomy.” The autonomy aspect speaks to an ongoing concern over whether the implementation of robotics in industrial settings will make the roles carried out by their human counterparts more robotic as well. Of course, the counterpoint has often been made that these systems effectively remove many of the most repetitive aspects of these roles.

The Institute goes on to suggest that these sorts of impacts are felt across roles and demographics. “We find that the negative consequences of robotization for work meaningfulness are the same, regardless of workers’ education level, skill level, or the tasks they perform,” the paper notes.

As for how to address this shift, the answer likely isn’t going to be simply saying no to automation. As long as robots have a positive impact on a corporation’s bottom line, adoption will continue at a rapidly increasing clip.

Brookings resident Milena Nikolova does offer a seemingly straightforward solution, writing, “If firms have mechanisms in place to ensure that humans and machines cooperate, rather than compete, for tasks, machines can help improve workers’ well-being.”

This is one of the defining pushes behind those automation firms touting collaborative robotics, rather than outright worker replacement. Pitting humans against their robotic counterparts will almost certainly be a losing battle.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Uber, Nvidia-backed Serve Robotics hits public markets with $40M splash | TechCrunch


Serve Robotics, the Uber and Nvidia-backed sidewalk robot delivery company, debuted publicly on the New York stock exchange Thursday, making it the latest startup to choose going public via a reverse merger as an alternative path to capital needed to fund growth.

The company, which spun out of Uber’s acquisition of Postmates in 2021, hits the Nasdaq under the ticker “SERV” with gross proceeds of roughly $40 million — “prior to deducting underwriting discounts and offering expenses,” per regulatory filings — at a share price of $4.

Serve completed its reverse merger with blank-check company Patricia Acquisition Corp in August 2023, and at the same time secured $30 million in a round led by existing investors Uber, Nvidia and Wavemaker Partners, bringing its total amount raised at the time to $56 million. While Serve’s debut in the public markets comes from a reverse merger and not a SPAC, the two alternate paths to IPO are not too dissimilar. They both provide startups with a faster route to public markets. However, pulling this particular financial lever has its risks, especially if the company is pre-revenue or bringing in very little revenue. We need look no further than the countless fallen autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle companies to determine that this is not a golden ticket to longevity or profitability.

Like any publicly traded company, this path does require financial disclosures that provides information on revenue and profits or losses.

Serve brought in $207,545 in revenue last year, up from $107,819 in 2022, per regulatory filings. That’s at a loss of $1.5 million in 2023 and $1.04 million in 2022. However, Serve Robotics said it’s expecting enormous growth fueled by money generated by going public. Those funds will go towards funding R&D for future generations of robots, manufacturing activities, geographic expansion and general working capital and corporate purposes.

The startup also has some big revenue ambitions. Serve said it aims to generate between $60 million and $80 million in annual revenue, with contribution margins of over 50% and positive cash flow by the end of 2025. The company pointed to recent momentum, including its 25% month-over-month increase in deliveries since 2022 when the startup started delivering for Uber Eats.

Future growth will come from scaling the 100 robots deployed today in Los Angeles to up to 2,000 robots in multiple U.S. cities by the end of next year through a contract with Uber Eats. Serve has also enlisted Magna International as a manufacturing partner. Currently, Serve handles 300 restaurants via the Uber Eats and 7-Eleven platform in LA, but has its eyes on Dallas, San Diego and Vancouver, Canada, according to CEO Ali Kashani.

Serve projects that a big portion of its revenue will come from ads, Kashani told TechCrunch.

“I never thought that I would start a robotics company and then be in the ads business,” said a tired, but excited, Kashani in a phone interview minutes after the bell rang. It’s normal for companies to barely sleep before making their public debut out of a need to finalize all the financials and pure adrenaline. “But it’s great because this can help offset the delivery costs, so everybody wins.”

Kashani said Serve has had a lot of inbound interest for ads on its cute little sidewalk robots. On an annual basis, ad revenue can generate 25% to 50% of Serve’s total revenue, he said.

That’s one of the value propositions Serve has pitched to investors. Serve also says it can tap the rapid progress in AI and robotics to help reduce reliance on cars, because who needs something as small as a burrito delivered in a sedan anyway?

“The tailwind here is that these robots are a lot more scalable than a lot of the alternative approaches we have,” said Kashani. “If you look at a car, it has about 3,000 times more kinetic energy than one of our robots, so just by nature, these are safer… for pedestrians, bikers for everybody else, and I think that’s definitely recognized when we when we talk to cities. So there’s a lot of regulatory momentum, but you also have the fact that there is a shortage of labor. You can see companies in the delivery space are still not necessarily profitable, and they’re looking for ways to bring some mix of automation into their fleets. So we see a lot of interest in in the solution that we’re providing.”

Serve’s robots operate at Level 4 autonomy, meaning they can operate autonomously within certain boundaries and conditions. However, Serve still relies on remote human operators to supervise operations in certain scenarios, like at intersections or if something unexpected happens.

The company’s offering is expected to close around April 22. Serve’s gross proceeds from the offering could hit about $46 million, according to Kashani, if Aegis Capital Corp., the deal’s underwriter, takes the company up on its 45-day option to buy up to 150,000 additional shares of common stock, or about 15% of the number of shares sold, to cover any over-allotments.

Upon the closing of the merger, Uber held a 16.6% stake and Nvidia an 14.3% stake in Serve, according to regulatory filings. An April filing shows that stake will change to 11.5% and 10.1% respectively once the offering closes, but a Serve spokesperson caveated that those percentages may change given the $4 opening share price.

Sarfraz Maredia, Uber’s vice president of delivery and head of its Americas region, has joined Serve’s board.

Serve Robotics started its life as Postmates X, the robotics division of on-demand delivery company Postmates. The autonomous sidewalk robots started delivering to Postmates customers in multiple Los Angeles neighborhoods in 2018. It started a commercial service in 2020.

Uber acquired Postmates in late 2020 for $2.65 billion. Three months later, Postmates X spun out as an independent company called Serve Robotics. The new name was taken from the autonomous sidewalk delivery bot that was developed and piloted by Postmates.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Belgian computer vision startup Robovision eyes US expansion to address labor shortages | TechCrunch


Faced with labor shortages, sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture are increasingly adopting AI in their automation.

Computer vision startups are looking to jump on that opportunity with a range of point solutions for both industries. From data collection to crop monitoring and harvesting, robots with eyes are entering the fields.

One big challenge that remains, however, is implementation: If such solutions are not easy to use, they won’t be used.

Belgian startup Robovision believes it has found a way around that. The company wants to industrialize deep learning tools and make them more accessible to businesses that are not tech companies at their core. It has built a “no-code” computer vision AI platform that doesn’t require software developers or data scientists to be involved at every step of the process. Robovision doesn’t make robots, but as its name suggests, the company also targets robotics companies that want to develop new machines that support AI-enabled automation.

In practice, this means Robovision customers can use its platform to upload data, label it, test their model and deploy it in production. The company says its model can be useful for a variety of use cases such as recognizing fruit at supermarket scale, identifying faults in newly made electrical components and even cutting rose stems.

Image Credits: Robovision

Out of its base in Belgium, Robovision already serves customers in 45 countries, CEO Thomas Van den Driessche told TechCrunch in an interview. Now, thanks to a recent sizable funding round, it’s expanding to the U.S., banking on interest from industrial and agribusiness customers in that gigantic market.

The Series A round of $42 million is being co-led by Belgian agtech investor Astanor Ventures and Target Global. The latter is a Berlin-based investor and its participation in this fundraise marks a departure from some of the other coverage it’s had of late: controversy over its ties to Russian money. Red River West, a French VC that focuses on funding European startups looking to break into North America, also participated in the round.

With a post-money valuation of $180 million, this new round brings the total amount of equity funding raised by Robovision to $65 million, including two converted notes. This still leaves the founders together with the staff owning more than 50% of Robovision, its chief growth officer, Florian Hendrickx, told TechCrunch via email.

What is the point?

One challenge that Robovision faces in its expansion is that working with different sectors complicates messaging and its go-to-market strategy. On the plus side, learnings and experiments in one application can be applied to another. Robovision, for example, was able to apply some of the 3D deep learning it had developed for disease detection in tulips to disease detection in human lungs during the COVID crisis.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” founder Jonathan Berte told TechCrunch. “It has been the DNA of Robovision of striking the delicate balance between diversity and focus.”

That DNA comes from Robovision’s history: It was founded in 2012 as a consultancy studio, and it was several years before it pivoted into the B2B platform approach that also made it more attractive to VCs.

The initial traction Robovision gained was in agtech, which represents 50% of its activities, Van den Driessche said. Agtech is also where its Series A’s co-lead investor, Astanor, comes from: That company focuses on what it describes as “impact agrifood.”

Agtech is a sizable opportunity because of labor shortages, and also due to Robovision’s track record — it helps its partner ISO Group plant a billion tulips annually. But other verticals are growing faster for Robovision, Van den Driessche said.

According to Van den Driessche, Robovision is seeing strong traction in life sciences and tech. For instance, Hitachi uses its platform to produce semiconductor wafers. “I don’t think agriculture is going to be the largest sector at scale,” said Bao-Y Van Cong, a partner at Target Global. “I think it’s going to be industrial manufacturing.”

Apple’s recent decision to acquire DarwinAI, an AI startup specializing in overseeing the manufacturing of components, shows rising interest in this space. For Robovision founder Jonathan Berte, it is also a sign that a toolbox that can support a wide variety of different industrialized applications makes more sense. “Apple would never [have bought that] company if it were only a point solution.”

From Ghent to the world

The convertible notes that Robovision raised in 2022 and 2023 following its pivot mostly came from Dutch and Belgian investors, but it had to look further afield to raise the capital it needed. The amount of capital that Robovision raised in the round would have been harder to secure from Benelux, or may have required more dilution.

Robovision’s Belgian roots are paying off in other ways. “The whole early team was very smart people from Ghent university,” Berte said. Van den Driessche became Robovision’s CEO in 2022, and Berte moved his focus to fundraising, partnerships and global expansion.

Robovision’s tech evolution has extended to rethinking the architecture of its computer vision tools in response to customer demand. Because low latency and delivery speed are requirements in certain environments, it launched Robovision Edge.

In today’s market, doing more with less has become key to competing globally. “I think the only way to do that is to innovate and to become more productive,” Van Cong said.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Agility Robotics lays off some staff amid commercialization focus | TechCrunch


Agility Robotics on Thursday confirmed that it has laid off a “small number” of employees. The well-funded Oregon-based firm says the job loss is part of a company-wide focus on commercialization efforts.

“As part of Agility’s ongoing efforts to structure the company for success, we have parted ways with a small number of employees that were not central to core product development and commercialization,” the company wrote in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “At the same time, we are focused on meeting the extraordinary demand for bipedal robots across industrial use cases. That means ramping up production of Digit while continuing to win top-tier global customers, and adding new roles that meet these goals. We believe today’s actions will allow us to focus on the areas that drive productization, commercialization, and production of Digit.”

Agility was ahead of the industrial humanoid curve with its bipedal robot, Digit. The firm was spun out of research conducted at Oregon State University. There’s been no lack of interest in its impressive legged robots over the years. Ford was an early champion, as Agility explored Digit’s last-mile-delivery potential. Ultimately, however, those efforts were placed on the back burner, as the company shifted focus to understaffed warehouses.

There’s been no lack of funding for Agility’s efforts, despite a general slowdown in investments in and adoption of robotic systems, both of which can be seen as corrections following a massive pandemic-fueled boom.

Two years ago this month, the company announced a $150 million Series B. Amazon notably participated in the round by way of its Industrial Innovation Fund. The retail giant subsequently announced that it would pilot Digits as part of its fulfillment center workflow. The pilots have since ended, but neither company has announced next steps.

A number of other humanoid robotics firms have announced their own pilots in recent months, including Figure with BMW and Apptronik with Mercedes. Last month at Modex, Agility showcased updates to Digit’s end effectors designed specifically for automotive manufacturing workflows.

Agility has also made a number of high-profile hires over the past year, including Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson joining as chief executive, Fetch CEO Melonee Wise as CTO and former Apple and Ford executive Aindrea Campbell in as COO.

The company’s jobs page currently lists five open roles, largely focused on engineering and manufacturing.


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

These 74 robotics companies are hiring | TechCrunch


It’s tough out there — and yet, doing my semi-regular jobs post always gives me hope. Seems every time I post one of these, the number increases. At 74 companies, this is undoubtedly the largest list we’ve made, by a wide margin. That means more work for me in putting this post together, but if it helps a few folks find some work, it was definitely worth it.

I love hearing stories from folks who got hired by clicking on a link in this post, so please drop me a note over on LinkedIn if that applies to you. As always, good luck. You got this.

1X Technologies (23 roles)
Advanced Construction Robotics (4 roles)
Aescape (5 roles)
Aethon (5 roles)
Agility Robotics (5 roles)
Allvision (2 roles)
Ambi Robotics (2 roles)
ANYbotics (25 roles)
Apptronik (16 roles)
Astrobotic (23 roles)
Atomic Machines (2 roles)
Aurora (40 careers)
Baubot (10 roles)
Bear Robotics (13 roles)
BHS Robotics (8 roles)
Bloomfield Robotics (5 roles)
Boxbot (3 roles)
Carnegie Robotics (1 role)
Cepheid (4 roles)
Chef Robotics (15 roles)
Civ Robotics (5 roles)
Collaborative Robotics (10 roles)
Covariant (20 roles)
Dexterity (42 roles)
Edge Case Research (1 role)
Ekumen (3 roles)
Enchanted Tools (50 roles)
Engineered Arts (1 role)
Exotec (174 roles)
Eye-Bot (4 roles)
Forcen (4 roles)
Formant, Inc. (4 roles)
Formic (8 roles)
Formlogic (12 roles)
Four Growers (4 roles)
Foxglove (2 roles)
Fulfil Solutions (15 roles)
Gecko Robotics (18 roles)
GrayMatter Robotics (11 roles)
Hellbender (6 roles)
Johnson & Johnson Med Tech (1 role)
Keybotic (2 roles)
Matic Robots (10 roles)
Medra (3 roles)
Mine Vision Systems (2 roles)
Near Earth Autonomy (4 roles)
Neocis (15 roles)
Neubility (1 role)
Neuraville (8 roles)
Neya Systems (9 roles)
Nimble Robotics (8 roles)
Nuro (40 roles)
Onward Robotics (2 roles)
Plus.ai (3 roles)
Polymath Robotics (2 roles)
Pudu Robotics (2 roles)
Pyka (10 roles)
Reliable Robotics (36 roles)
Roboto AI (1 role)
Robust AI (14 roles)
Sanctuary AI (14 roles)
Sakar Robotics (6 roles)
Scythe Robotics (11 roles)
Seegrid (10 roles)
Sphinx (5 roles)
Stack AV (40 roles)
Sunnybotics (2 roles)
The AI Institute (19 roles)
Titan Robotics (3 roles)
UnitX (8 roles)
Vecna Robotics (7 roles)
Vention (20 roles)
Viam (4 roles)
Volley Automation (10 roles)


Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Apple’s electric car loss could be home robotics’ gain | TechCrunch


For every tech success story, there are countless projects that slam headlong into the brick wall of reality. Apple’s electric vehicle ambitions are one of the most recent — and, frankly, best — examples of a project failing in spite of seeming to have everything going for it.

The jury is still out on the ultimate fate of the Vision Pro, but at the very least, Apple’s mixed reality headset demonstrates that the company isn’t afraid to keep trying where pretty much everyone else has failed. With the Apple Car firmly in the rearview, the company is reportedly exploring yet another notoriously difficult path: home robots.

The category is both unique and uniquely difficult for a number of reasons. One thing that sets it apart from other categories is the fact that there’s been precisely one success story: the robot vacuum. It’s been 22 years since the first Roomba was introduced, and for the past two decades, an entire industry (including iRobot itself) has been chasing that success.

iRobot’s inability to strike gold a second time is not for lack of trying. In the nearly quarter-century since it introduced Roomba, it’s given us gutter clearers, pool cleaners, lawn mowers and even a Roomba specifically designed to remove screws and other hardware detritus off garage floors. In spite of those efforts, however, the company has fared best when it focused its resources back into its robot vacuum.

Image Credits: iRobot

The robot vacuum succeeded for the same reason any robot has ever succeeded: It was a product built to perform a single in-demand task repetitively to the best of its ability. To this day, vacuums are the battlefield on which the home robot wars are fought. Take the well-funded Bay Area startup Matic. The former Google/Nest engineers who founded the company believe the next breakthrough in the home will be built on the foundation of robot vacuums. Their case, in part, is that iRobot effectively painted itself into a corner with its puck-like form factor.

Those early Roombas weren’t built with today’s sensing and mapping capabilities in mind. Matic believes that by simply making the robot taller, you dramatically improve its vantage point. This was also the driver behind the most interesting innovation found on Amazon’s Astro home robot: the periscope camera.

Image Credits: Amazon

The fact is that home robot functionality is severely hampered by form factor. The hockey puck design that’s prevalent across robot vacuums isn’t ideal for anything beyond the core functionality it’s built for. To effectively perform more of the sorts of tasks people might desire in a home robot, the hardware needs to get more complex. Mobile manipulators are a great moving target. That is to say, if you want a helping hand, a hand is a good place to start.

Like so many other things in this world, however, mobile manipulators are deceptively difficult. In fact, industrial robotics haven’t cracked it yet. Big, bolted-down arms are common in manufacturing, and wheeled autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) like Locus and Kiva are common in warehouses, but the middle ground between the two hasn’t been firmly established. This is a big part of the reason the human element remains important in that world. It’s a problem that will be solved soon enough, but it seems likely it will happen with these more expensive industrial machines well before it makes its way into more affordable home robots (as a rule, corporations generally have deeper pockets than people).

This is also a big part of the reason many are championing the humanoid form factor in the workplace (human beings, after all, offer a kind of mobile manipulation). But that’s a longwinded think piece for another day.

Image Credits: Hello Robotics

Mobile manipulation isn’t entirely out of reach for home robots. Hello Robot’s Stretch is probably the most compelling example at the moment. Rather than a humanoid form factor, the robot looks like a Roomba with a pole mounted in its center. This houses both an imaging system and an arm that moves up and down to clasp objects (dishes, laundry) at different heights. Of course, some tasks are more easily accomplished with two arms — and suddenly you start to see why so many robotics firms have effectively backward-engineered humanoids.

In its current form, Stretch is prohibitively expensive at $24,950. That’s likely a big part of the reason the company is selling it as a development platform. Interestingly, Matic sees its own robot as a kind of development platform — using vacuuming as a gateway into additional home chores.

Another issue with Stretch is that it’s teleoperated (the company sent us a note after this published stating that some developers have created autonomous functions). There’s nothing wrong with teleop in many scenarios, but it seems unlikely that people are going to flock to a home robot that’s being controlled by a human somewhere far away.

Navigation is another key barrier to the home. Compared to warehouses and factories, homes are relatively unstructured environments. They differ greatly from one to another, lighting tends to be all over the place and humans are constantly moving stuff around and dropping things on the floor.

Matic’s vacuum uses an array of cameras to map spaces — and understand where it is in them. Image Credits: Matic

The world of self-driving has faced its own obstacles on this front. But the key difference between an autonomous robot on the highway and another in the home is that the worst the latter is probably going to do is knock something off a shelf. That’s bad, but very rarely does it result in death. With self-driving cars, on the other hand, any accident represents a significant step back for the industry. The technology is — perhaps understandably — being held to a higher standard than its human counterpart.

While adoption of self-driving technologies is well behind the curve that many anticipated, largely for the above safety reason, many of the technologies developed for the category have helped quietly kickstart their own robotics revolution, as autonomous vehicles take over farms and sidewalks.

This is likely a big part of the reason it might view home robots as “the next big thing” (to quote Bloomberg quoting its sources). Apple has no doubt pumped a tremendous amount of resources into driving technologies. If those could be repurposed for a different project, maybe it won’t all be for naught.

While the reports note that Apple “hasn’t committed” to either the robotic smart screen or mobile robot that are said to exist somewhere inside the company’s skunkworks, it has already put Apple Home execs Matt Costello and Brian Lynch on the hardware side of things, while SVP of Machine Learning and AI Strategy John Giannandrea is said to be involved on the AI side of things.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Given the proximity to its home efforts, one can imagine the company working on its own version of Amazon’s Astro — though that project currently exists as more of a cautionary tale for the time being. The project has been hamstrung by high cost and a lack of useful features to justify it. The system also effectively served as a mobile Alexa portal, and home assistants have largely fallen out of fashion of late.

Apple does have some robotics expertise — though nothing approaching what Amazon has on its industrial side. The company has been involved in the production of robot arms like Daisy, which salvages key metals from discarded iPhones. That’s still a pretty large leap to a home robot.

Perhaps the company could take a more Vision Pro-like approach to the category, which has a heavy focus on developer contributions. Doing so, however, would require an extremely versatile hardware platform, which would almost certainly be cost-prohibitive for most consumers, making the Vision Pro’s $3,500 price tag look like small potatoes.


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