Bossa Nova Robotics today announced the closure of a $29 million funding round to bolster its inventory robots for grocery stores and large retailers like Walmart. Bossa Nova robots currently scan shelves three times a day in 50 Walmart stores across California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas.
Bossa Nova also announced that Flex will act as its manufacturing partner in order to accelerate the creation of its robots.
The funding will be used to support international expansion, focus on software improvements, give customers more data-driven insights, and explore opportunities like the deployment of robots in smaller grocery stores.
“The hires that we’ll make as a result of this funding are all software hires, and that’s really to focus on the data. So we certainly see our business model as ‘How do we extract more value from rich data?’ rather than ‘How do we build different robots to accomplish different tasks?’,” Bossa Nova chief business officer Martin Hitch told VentureBeat in a phone interview.
Bossa Nova’s robots work by combining basic RGB photos and point-cloud images to understand depth and provide stores with inventory updates and alert them to items that need to be restocked.
The robots move on four wheels at speeds of 0.4 miles per hour, or 20 centimeters a second. The inventory robots are programmed to operate at times of day when shoppers are less likely to be present, however, they also use lidar and a series of sensors to recognize objects and avoid running into or injuring anyone.
If people are nearby, the robot may plot a course around them, call upon remote assistance from Bossa Nova’s human robot operators, or just stop and go in another direction.
In early trials, the robots have traveled 7,000 miles and learned how to better navigate stores, because unlike autonomous cars on roads, Hitch said, shoppers tend to move sporadically, frequently stopping and changing direction.
“How many times have you walked down the shopping aisle and then changed your mind and U-turned and gone the other way? These are things we do all the time in a shopping environment, and we don’t make any signal that we’re going to do it,” Hitch said. “I don’t want to trivialize what self-driving cars have to solve, because that’s incredibly challenging, but there are at least some rules on the road that 90 percent of people follow.”
The $29 million funding round was led by Cota Capital, with participation from China Walden Ventures and LG Electronics, as well as existing investors Intel Capital, Lucas Venture Group, and WRV Capital.
Bossa Nova Robotics has 185 employees, with offices in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Mountain View. Established in 2005, the company has raised $70 million to date.