Precise, fast, and flexible robotic manipulation of variable items has been a challenge for automated order fulfillment. Artificial intelligence startups are working to enable more autonomous handling. Embodied Intelligence Inc., which does business as Covariant, yesterday said it has raised $80 million in Series C funding. The Berkeley, Calif.-based company said it will use the money to continue its robotics and AI research and development, as well as grow its team globally.
“Autonomous order picking has long been seen as the holy grail for warehouse automation in the robotics world,” stated Pieter Abbeel, president, chief scientist, and co-founder of Covariant. “It's a very hard problem, but thanks to our team's fundamental advances in research and engineering, we've achieved production-grade autonomy for a range of industries over the past year.”
“We are at a point where modern AI is opening up a whole new generation of robotic applications,” he added. “Warehouses and distribution centers are where this transition is happening first, but I also see it as a sign of things to come elsewhere, for example, in the manufacturing, agriculture, and food industries.”
Founded in 2017 by AI researchers and roboticists from the University of California, Berkeley, and OpenAI, Covariant said it is working to apply the latest AI breakthroughs to the biggest industrial opportunities. The company described its Covariant Brain as a “universal AI that allows robots to see, reason, and act on the world around them.”
Covariant Brain deployments spread
The Covariant Brain draws on its experiences across settings, verticals, and continents to allow customers from diverse industries to operate robots at human-level autonomy, said the company.
In the past year, the Covariant Brain has been successfully deployed across industries including fashion, health and beauty, industrial supply, pharmaceutical, grocery, parcel, and general merchandise. Covariant claimed that they proved its consistent and reliable performance on benchmarks set by leading companies to assess autonomy in real-world conditions.
“As of today, the Covariant Brain is powering a wide range of industrial robots to manage order picking, putwall, sorter induction—all for companies in various industries with drastically different types of products to manipulate,” said Peter Chen, CEO of Covariant. “The breadth of use demonstrates the Covariant Brain can help robots of different types to manipulate new objects they've never seen before in environments where they've never operated.”
Covariant adds executives for growth
Returning investor Index Ventures led Covariant's Series C round, with participation from Amplify Partners and Radical Ventures. The company also added new global investors, Temasek and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments). The latest funding brings Covariant's total capitalization to $147 million within two years of its public launch.
Covariant has also added several executives to its management team. They include Raghavendra (RVP) Prabhu as head of engineering and research, Ally Lynch as head of marketing, and Sam Cauthen as head of people.
“With Covariant rolling out multiple applications in warehouses across Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific over the last year, it's the first time that AI robotics has been successful at this scale with such variability,” said Mike Volpi of Index Ventures. “Covariant consistently outperforms the competition in tests by prospective clients to benchmark autonomy in real-world operations. While the company is proving the value of AI robotics in the supply chain, we predict Covariant AI will expand far beyond the realm of warehouses.”
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