Survey a lot of industrial warehouses and you’ll see a lot of cages. It’s a safety thing — effectively a way of ensuring that robots don’t accidentally hurt people. They’re big, fast and made of metal. We’re small, squishy and don’t always look where we should. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best we’ve had for a long time.
As automation increases in these spaces, so, too, will the opportunity for injury. These sorts of safety concerns lie at the heart of Veo Robotics’ founding principles. Simply put, the Massachusetts-based firm builds software solutions designed to help humans and robots coexist in a working space.
Today, the startup announced that it has closed a $29 million Series B. The total includes $15 million raised last year — though the firm opted to hold off on making the raise public until securing $4 million in 2023. Safar Partners and Yamaha Motor Ventures participated in the round, following past investments from big names like Google Ventures and Baidu Ventures.
The most notable name this time out, however is Amazon. The retail behemoth participated by way of the $1 billion Industrial Innovation Fund it announced almost exactly a year ago. Robotics have been a key focus for the fund since the first wave of investments, which featured Agility Robotics, BionicHIVE and Mantis Robotics.
Amazon has been amassing its own in-house robot army since its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems. It’s easy to view these investments as a kind of trial run for potential acquisitions, though the company has largely denied that it uses the money as an on-boarding process. That said, it is certainly a vote of confidence and, at the very least, probably an indication that the company will begin piloting this technology in its own workspaces — assuming it hasn’t already. Veo says the fresh funding will go toward accelerating its work with “corporate partners.”
“The newest generation of intelligent robotic systems work with people, not separately from them,” says co-founder and CTO Clara Vu. “Unlocking this potential requires a new generation of safety systems — this is Veo’s mission, and we’re very excited to be taking this next step.”
Amazon’s systems have traditionally been enclosed. The Kiva robots, for instance, work in a confined area that requires space safety equipment for a human to enter, while its robotic arms operate in their own cells. More recently, however, the company has began branching out in systems like the autonomous Proteus, which allow for closer human-robot interaction.
“As investors, we were drawn to Veo Robotics’ focus on safety in the workplace,” says Industrial Innovation Fund director, Matt Peterson. “Their technology is both collaborative and effective, prioritizing employee well-being. We are excited to support Veo Robotics and their vision to design innovative and human-centric robotics.”