Agility Robotics, which has developed the Digit humanoid robots to work alongside people in warehouses and logistics facilities, today said it has raised $150 million in Series B funding. The Corvallis, Ore.-based company said it plans to use the money to accelerate research and development and scale production.
“Unprecedented consumer and corporate demand have created an extraordinary need for robots to support people in the workplace,” said Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility Robotics. “With this investment, Agility can ramp up the delivery of robots to fill roles where there’s an unmet need.”
Agility Robotics said it has been developing robots that combine design, software, and hardware to be “part of a blended human-robot workforce.” Shelton and Jonathan Hurst, two robotics Ph.D.s from Carnegie Mellon University, met as graduate students and founded the company seven years ago.
Agility Robotics designs Digit for flexibility
Despite the conventional wisdom that many industry problems have been addressed by automation, most robotics technologies today are purpose-built for single tasks, making them inflexible, expensive, and quickly obsolete, said Agility Robotics.
By contrast, the company's legged robots are built to be versatile, cost-effective, non-threatening, and durable helpers to people, wrote Hurst, chief technology officer at Agility, in a recent blog post. The humanoids are built, not for dancing, but for commercial uses such as carrying packages, stacking goods, and working indoors or outside, claimed the company.
Agility added that its robots “provide unique value to businesses by augmenting the human workforce’s productivity, efficiency, and wellness.” The company shipped its first systems in 2018 and plans to deploy its most advanced model at customer sites later this year.
As with previous work at Ford Motor Co. and research institutions in Ohio and Michigan, the latest deployments will enable Agility to iterate with customer feedback. They will also help it gain insights into operating environments, discover new uses for its robots, and refine their capabilities, said the company.
New Amazon fund joins investors
DCVC and Playground Global led Agility Robotics' Series B round. Previous investors, including MFV Partners, ITIC, Robotics Hub, Safar Partners, Sony Innovation Fund, and TDK Ventures, also participated.
“We’re deepening our investment in Agility Robotics because their robots solve the labor shortages plaguing businesses and wreaking havoc on supply chains,” said Matt Ocko, co-managing partner of DCVC. “Agility’s robots are designed to free people from repetitive or unpleasant tasks, allowing them to take on the more fulfilling work they can do better than any robot.”
“Agility is set to make a powerful impact, developing and shipping robots that are built to co-exist seamlessly in our lives,” said Bruce Leak, general partner at Playground Global. “Since Agility’s earliest days, we’ve believed their unique technical approach stands alone in being able to deliver on the promise of practical everyday robots.”
The newly announced Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund (AIIF) also joined the round with an interest in logistics developments.
“The purpose of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund is to support emerging technologies through direct investments, designed to spur invention and solve for the world’s toughest problems across customer fulfillment operations, logistics, and supply chain solutions,” stated Katherine Chen, head of the AIIF.
“Agility’s approach to designing robotics for a blended workforce is truly unique and can have a significant ripple effect for a wide range of industries, and we hope others follow suit to accelerate innovation in this way,” she added.
Agility Robotics said it will use the latest capital to continue expanding its operations and hiring in the U.S. The company has opened a new office in Pittsburgh in addition to expanding its primary facilities in Oregon facilities and operations in Palo Alto, Calif.
Agility plans to double its headcount by 2024 and is actively recruiting experts in robotics hardware and software.