While the mention of AI-powered robots will inevitably spark fears of some sort of Terminator-like creature, one LA-based company, inVia Robotics, is using its robots to help e-commerce businesses scale.
Founded by three USC alumni working on a DARPA-funded project to create a pair of threat-detecting binoculars similar to the pair Luke Skywalker used in “The Empire Strikes Back,” the co-founders conceived of the idea for offering a “robot-as-a-service” supply chain management platform that promises to completely change the way in which e-commerce orders are fulfilled.
Today, the company announced the close of a $9 million Series A round led by local VC Upfront Ventures, including participation from LA-based Embark Ventures.
“The thing that really differentiates our platform from other robotics systems is the fact that our robots adapt to their environments and can both move items around the warehouse as well as manipulate those items,” said Lior Elazary, co-founder and CEO of inVia Robotics. “We’re constantly optimizing the robots and suggesting new methods of reorganizing the totes [or boxes] that they — the robots — can do in real time.”
Founded in 2015, each of inVia’s robots are capable of adapting to any warehouse’s configuration, handling up to 40 pounds and reaching for items up to 8-feet-high. They also possess a swappable battery which allows each device to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, helping businesses boost productivity and employee safety by eliminating the need for long walks through the warehouse and the lifting of heavy objects.
We can have these robots deploy in existing infrastructures without having any significant changes made before doing so."
“We can have these robots deploy in existing infrastructures without having any significant changes made before doing so,” said Elazary. “The robots are able to learn the environment by mapping it, which allows them to complete a set of tasks they receive from the inVia Optimizer platform. When items arrive at the warehouse, people put them in boxes and the robots go into the warehouse and file away the boxes. During fulfillment, the robots bring the items strategically and coordinate among themselves to get the best throughput, and then a person will pack the items and ship.”
In addition to the funding, inVia also announced it had taken on LA e-commerce giant Hollar as a client and is in the process of deploying 100 inVia Picker robots.
“Being headquartered in LA is definitely a benefit from the manufacturing and talent perspective, but having so many great e-commerce companies have really been able to help us grow as a company,” Elazary said, also mentioning that the partnership with Hollar will eventually lead to a number of valuable case studies. “LA is a major hub for e-commerce, and we've been really focusing on customers that are local to us because we're still a small company, so being able to do these deployments for companies only a few miles away is pretty ideal.”
As for the funding, Elazary said will go towards expanding and producing more robots, which are almost entirely sourced from LA-based vendors before being assembled in the company’s headquarters.