Frank Tobe | The Robot Report
Four interesting funding announcements: Ozobot got $2 million; HiBot got $3.1; Knightscope got $3.7 and Airware got an undisclosed amount but from a substantial partner: GE Ventures.
Evollve, Inc., a Southern California start-up, has received $2 million in a Series A round of funding. The money will be used to scale up manufacturing for the company's first product: Ozobot. Ozobots are able to read colors, flashing lights and patterns on game boards, tablets and smartphones. It recognizes them as code that can be programmed to perform specific actions such as speed up, slow down, turn right or left and stop. Thus Ozobots are programmable learning devices as well as toys and retail for $49.99.
Ozobots launched earlier this year at both the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the American International Toy Fair after getting off to a rocky canceled Kickstarter campaign. But it won both Best of CES and Best of Toyfair awards and USA Today and Popular Science also named it one of their Best Tech Toys of Toy Fair 2014.
HiBot, a Tokyo-based start-up, developed what looked to be a great invention to inspect high-voltage transmission lines and was progressing nicely until the earthquate and disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant happened. HiBot's sponsor was KEPCO, the operator of that plant. Funds for HiBot dried up and progress came to a halt and has been ever since.
HiBot went on to develop a snake robot for pipe inspection and components, sensors, cables and software - all using robots to do dangerous jobs performed in a safer way than with humans. Earlier this year HiBot entered into an agreement with Hitach High-Technologies whereby Hitachi will manufacture and market the Expliner overhead transmission line inspecting robot and Hibot will support and continue to provide development solutions for KEPCO and Hitachi. And just the other day HiBot secured a $3.1 million equity investment from Draper Nexus Venture Partners. Funds will be used to accelerate development and product launch for their new pipe inspection robot expected to be released next spring.
Airware, a San Francisco-based inventor of a customizable autopilot drone operating system and platform, just received a strategic investment of an undisclosed amount from GE Ventures. [Airware was formerly know as Unmanned Innovation, an Orange County start-up.]Airware has already raised $40.4 million. GE Ventures will not only get an equity interest but they will work closely to "make sure the platform can address a number of their use cases", said Airware CEO Jonathan Downey. Some of those use cases include checking power lines for downed cables; monitoring pipes for leaks and inspecting wind turbines for breaks and other problems.
Airware has grown to more than 70 people since their July $25 million Series B funding infusion led by Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz and First Round VCs.
Knightscope, a Silicon Valley security and robotics start-up, closed a $3.7 million Series A financing with an impressive list of strategic investors: NTT DOCOMO, Konica Minolta and Flextronics. Funds will be used to help the company accelerate deployments (as will be done for Microsoft by providing Knightscope security and K5 robots for the MS Campus).
Knightscope is marketing their start-up as a platform developer of autonomous technology that fuses robotics, predictive analytics and collaborative social engagement to predict and prevent crime. They're even trying to coin a new term: ADMs - Autonomous Data Machines - for their K5 roving robots.
The $3.7 million funding round brings total Knightscope funding thus far to $5.2 million.
Knightscope is making the K5, available now for preorder on a MaaS (Machine-as-a-Service) basis to select customers in Silicon Valley at $6.25 per hour, per machine in 24/7 deployments for terms of one, two or three years. According to Knightscope, deploying K5 machines in outdoor environments on corporate campuses, around data centers, shopping malls and where private security guards are stationed will free humans to address strategic tasks while the machines handle the monotonous and sometimes dangerous tasks.
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