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Inventory robot maker Bossa Nova Robotics today announced it has acquired Hawxeye, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff whose work focuses primarily on computer vision and facial recognition software.

The acquisition will help refine object detection carried out by Bossa Nova’s robots, which currently scan Walmart shelves at 50 stores across the United States.

The Hawxeye team of 10 will join Bossa Nova, and Hawxeye cofounder Marios Savvides has been named Bossa Nova’s chief AI scientist.

Bossa Nova has also formed a partnership with the CyLab Biometrics Center at Carnegie Mellon University, which was founded by Savvides.


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Work done by Savvides alongside postdoctorate and graduate students in the past two decades has focused on computer vision that works despite challenges such as low image resolution or incomplete information such as images of masked faces or partially visible objects.

Rather than carrying out computation in the cloud, Hawxeye’s AI has deployed on-device machine learning on one million legacy cameras, Savvides said.

That same intelligence will now be used to better recognize items on store shelves at different angles using fixed position legacy camera systems.

Since fixed cameras with zoom or scan capabilities can still come with limitations, Bossa Nova may also create a new robot especially for mid-sized stores like Walgreens or CVS or small grocery or convenience stores.

“Right now we’ve designed a solution for super stores and we’re deploying that, but this software stack, particularly with Marios’ AI, will enable us to deploy that at small scale too, and that’s definitely a future step or direction of our business,” Bossa Nova CEO Bruce McWilliams told VentureBeat in a phone interview.

The acquisition of Hawxeye comes just weeks after Bossa Nova closed a $29 million funding round, bringing its total amount raised to $60 million.

Helping retailers understand exactly what’s on store shelves in real time could help more businesses expand into next-generation opportunities such as deliveries from autonomous vehicles or data for cashierless stores like Amazon Go.

“What’s driving this new category is the need to go to omnichannel so [for] same-day, low-cost, or last-mile delivery, you want to use these stores as a distribution centers. But for that to be effective, they really need real-time understanding of exactly what’s on the shelf,” McWilliams said.

Bossa Nova Robotics was established in 2005, now has nearly 200 employees, and has offices in San Francisco and Mountain View, California, as well as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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