This week in robotics: Chinese startups net a series of fundraising successes

Before we dive into this week’s biggest news within the robotics space, there’s an announcement of our own to highlight.

We’ll be hosting a number of robotics industry experts at our very first Hardware Stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023. The stage kicks off on day three of Disrupt on September 21, and features speakers from Alphabet’s Intrinsic, Open Robotics, Agility Robotics and Farm-ng, with more reveals yet to come.

Resident robotics expert Brian Heater is taking the lead on the Hardware Stage, and you can keep tabs on future updates, and his continued coverage of the space, by subscribing to the Actuator newsletter right here.

With that self-promotion out of the way, let’s dive in.

Cooking robot company Botinkit raises $13M

Chain restaurants value consistency and efficiency, two things that lend themselves well to automation. Shenzhen-based startup Botinkit has brought its cooking robots beyond China’s borders to Japan and the U.S., and now will use the $13 million it raised in a Series A to bring its culinary creators to Europe and the Middle East.

Beyond cutting back on the loss of ingredients and energy usage during the cooking process, Botinkit sees another benefit to its robots.

“Cuisine used to be restricted by time and geographical boundaries. However, with the digitization of cooking, a range of new possibilities arise, including remote cooking. Suppose I’m in Shenzhen and you’re in the U.S., I can use our software and hardware system to ‘cook’ for you remotely,” co-founder Shirley Chen told TechCrunch earlier this week.

SoftBank invests in Rice Robotics’ deliveries

Workers in SoftBank’s new Tokyo headquarters have been using delivery robots with wide, adorable eyes to ferry 7-Eleven orders between the stores and drop-off locations. The cartoonish couriers, made by Hong Kong-based Rice Robotics, can run for 12 hours and just take an hour to recharge between onigiri and UCC coffee runs.

And SoftBank announced this week it would be contributing toward Rice’s $7 million pre-Series A funding round, which will be put toward a continued expansion within Japan, the company’s No. 1 source of revenue.

ForwardX’s robotics efforts hit $140M in fundraising

Warehouse logistics and inventory management have been discussed in past editions, and for good reason — it’s a huge industry ripe with opportunity for robotics and automation. And ForwardX, based in Beijing, has been collecting a significant amount of investment since launching in 2016.

The company, which has already dispatched 3,000 robots across a client list that includes IKEA, UNIQLO, Walmart and Mitsubishi, just announced a $30 million fundraise that brings its Series C to $61 million and its total funding to $140 million.

Women in Robotics launches a scholarship in honor of Joanne Pransky

Joanne Pransky, who recently passed away following decades of work within the robotics industry, left an indelible mark on the space as she sought to spur an understanding of the human side of our relationships with robots.

The nonprofit Women in Robotics is looking to honor her legacy by helping the next wave of women and non-binary students with a scholarship that takes her namesake. Anyone can help contribute to the fund right here via Bold.org.

“As a pioneer in the field of social robotics and the sales and marketing of robots and robotics journals, Joanne was very often the only woman in the room,” Women in Robotics president Andra Keay told TechCrunch. And with the help of the Joanne Pransky Celebration of Women in Robotics scholarship, that will be a thing of the past.


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