December 18, 2018

RightHand Robotics raises $23m to build robots with better hand-eye coordination

A robo-hand startup called RightHand raised $23m to help e-commerce companies automate ‘picking and packing.’

A warehouse automation startup called RightHand Robotics raised $23m to get its robotic paws on some new business in Europe and Japan. 

The Massachusetts-based robotics startup is one of several companies working to create precise ‘pick and pack’ robots that will help factories get a grip on automated e-commerce.

E-commerce operations could use a hand

Online e-commerce giants like Amazon already use robots to move boxes and bins around. Ultimately, though, they would like to automate every step in the fulfillment process. 

Thing is, picking and packing is one of the most difficult tasks to automate, and because it requires — gasp — humans, it can be expensive.

The RightHand system uses machine learning and computer vision to mimic a human’s hand-eye coordination, enabling the system to ‘pick’ up to 900 items an hour, even if it hasn’t seen them before.

Picking up where other robots left off

RightHand isn’t the only startup that makes ‘pick and pack’ robots. Competitors include Fanuc, ABB, and Kiva (which was acquired by Amazon, and whose founder is now on the RightHand board). 

But other robo-hands require expensive and time-consuming customization. In contrast, RightHand is designed to be a one-size-fits-all solution that easily adapts to a variety of warehouse tasks.

RightHand is still flexing its fingers: Though it plans to build brawnier robots, its machines can currently only pick up items that weigh less than 4.4 pounds.

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