Covariant raises $75M for its AI-powered warehouse robots

Covariant raises $75M for its AI-powered warehouse robots

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Covariant, a startup developing warehouse robots that can be deployed faster than traditional automation hardware, has raised $75 million in funding.

Covariant disclosed the investment today. The capital was provided as an extension to a Series C round that the startup had originally announced in 2021. Radical Ventures and Index Ventures co-led the new investment, while five other institutional backers contributed as well. 

One of the most time-consuming tasks involved in operating a logistics warehouse is picking. That’s the process of retrieving items from the shelf where they’re stored for processing. To speed up the task, warehouse operators deploy robotic arms that can retrieve items with little to no manual input.

Deploying robotic arms has historically been a complicated process. The reason is that such systems usually can’t process the merchandise in a logistics warehouse unless they’re manually programmed to do so. For each type of item that a company sells, it must develop a custom algorithm that will allow its robots to process that item.

Covariant, officially embodied intelligence Inc., sells robotic arms that promise to reduce the need for manual configuration. The startup says that its systems can handle “virtually any” item out of the box. As a result, retailers and logistics companies can deploy the systems faster than the task would otherwise require. 

Covariant’s robots are powered by an internally-developed intelligence system dubbed the Covariant Brain. According to the startup, the system is trained on data collected from millions of robotic merchandise processing operations. The Covariant Brain can handle apparel, groceries and other merchandise, as well as crates that contain multiple types of items. 

Different warehouse operators perform picking, the task of retrieving items from shelves, in different ways. Covariant says that its robots can be adapted accordingly. 

According to the startup, one of the use cases that its systems support is goods-to-person picking. That’s the term for having a robot retrieve multiple items and organize them in a single container. The container is then sent to a warehouse employee, who retrieves some or all of the merchandise gathered by the robot and prepares it for delivery.

Covariant says that its technology also supports kitting. Kitting is the process of preparing e-commerce parcels that contain several different types of merchandise, as opposed to identical items. The task often requires deploying multiple robotic arms side-by-side. 

“The leading companies have turned to AI robots to automate their most manual operations in order to decrease labor costs, increase throughput, and control profitability,” said Covariant Chief Executive Officer Peter Chen. “The past year for Covariant has been incredible with 6x growth in 2022 – and we are just getting started.”

Covariant says that more than 300 of its robots are deployed at warehouses worldwide. The startup has customers in 15 countries. Using the $75 million funding round announced today, Covariant plans to further grow its market presence. 

Photo: Covariant

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