A pandemic has provided us with the opportunity to trust technology to manage supply chains — right from procuring raw materials to delivering it to the end-users doorstep. The potential of AI-as-a-service in robotics and automation is immense. Especially during the lockdown phase, we have greatly understood the importance of letting robots fulfill our essential requirements, while humans stay indoor, protected from being infected. In a major funding announcement last week, the maker of AI Robotics software Covariant announced it raised $40 million in Series B funding. The funding should be seen as the increased dependence of AI robotics in the logistics and manufacturing sectors, among the worst-hit industries due to the pandemic.
Covariant will use the funding to accelerate its partnerships, introduce AI Robotics to new industries, and grow its research, engineering and commercial teams.
Next AI Milestones: Letting Robots Manufacture for Us
Covariant launched from stealth to reveal that it had reached a new AI milestone: its AI Robotics stations were running consistently at customer facilities in North America and Europe in the apparel, pharmaceutical and electronics industries, and had achieved autonomy in live production, with a mean unassisted operating time greater than one hour.
While repetitive and predictable tasks like the movement of goods have successfully been automated, complex and unpredictable tasks that require hands, such as picking, placing and unloading, have not. Traditional automation can’t handle the constant change and infinite variability of these tasks. Automating them requires advanced AI that can understand, learn and adapt.
Gesture-Control Automation: Setting New Benchmarks with AI Robotics Brain System
Covariant robots learn general abilities such as robust 3D perception, physical affordances of objects, few-shot learning and real-time motion planning which gives them the intelligence to learn how to manipulate new objects they’ve never seen before in environments where they’ve never operated.
The funding comes on the heels of significant momentum for the company. Soon after launching from stealth, Covariant invested in strategic partnerships to accelerate the deployment of robotic stations to customers. In February, Covariant announced a partnership with ABB, a leading industrial robotics supplier. In March, Covariant joined forces with Knapp, a leading supplier of intralogistics systems.
“As the coronavirus crisis has exposed serious frailty in the global supply chain, we’re seeing more demand than ever for our AI Robotics solutions,” said Peter Chen, Covariant CEO and co-founder. “Our customers are eager to invest in AI and scale it across their supply chains to meet growing demands and more stringent requirements. This latest funding round, along with our recent partnerships, will allow us to scale quickly across multiple industries.”
Currently, Covariant is building the Covariant Brain: universal AI that allows robots to see, reason and act on the world around them. Founded in 2017 by the world’s top AI researchers and roboticists from UC Berkeley and OpenAI, Covariant is bringing the latest artificial intelligence research breakthroughs to the biggest industry opportunities.