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ANYbotics, the Swiss developer of the ANYmal quadruped, closed a $22.3 million Series A round today. ANYmal is designed for a number of industrial applications, including inspection, and the funding will help ANYbotics scale the business.
ANYmal C, the company’s third-generation quadruped, is able to perform tasks with a high degree of autonomy in dynamic human environments. The robot features simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and can avoid unexpected obstacles in part due to its stereoscopic optical cameras that provide a 360-degree field of vision with depth information. A lidar system provides additional environmental data for navigating in a range of up to 100 meters.
ANYmal C is bi-directional, it can overcome up to 35-cm (13.8 in.) high steps, climb industrial stairs up to 45 degrees, and crawl into spaces tighter than 60 cm (23.6 in.). For teleoperation as well as a teach-in operation mode for dedicated pathways, ANYmal C is equipped with two wide-angle cameras at the front and rear to provide the operator with a clear view. For outdoor operation, ANYmal C can also be equipped with a receiver for GPS navigation.
ANYmal C can also be outfitted with custom sensor payloads of up to 10 kg (22 lb.) and run autonomously for 2-3 hours. The first application-specific design of ANYmal C is optimized for inspection tasks at industrial plants. For this, the robot is equipped with a pan-tilt inspection unit consisting of an optical zoom camera to read measurements from analog gauges and meters and check valves. For more information about the design of ANYmal C, read this article from ANYbotics co-founder and CEO Péter Fankhauser.
“We are working with leading energy, industrial processing, and construction companies to bring digitalization into environments that are too complex for traditional robots,” said Fankhauser.
ANYmal C is one of the few commercial-class quadrupeds on the market. And you can’t discuss quadrupeds without mentioning Spot from RBR50 company Boston Dynamics. The company, which commercialized Spot in June, has reportedly already sold 400-plus robots and generated $30 million-plus in revenue.
2020 has been a breakout year for legged robots, clearly showing there’s growing commercial opportunities for legged robotics developers. RBR50 company Agility Robotics recently raised a $20 million Series A for its Digit humanoid that started shipping to customers in July. While bipedal robots will likely have a harder time finding applications than quadrupeds, Digit is currently being marketed primarily to logistics providers, e-commerce retailers and R&D labs.
Researchers at ETH Zurich, which is where ANYbotics spun out of in 2016, recently added wheels to ANYmal’s legs that allow it to go further faster and more efficiently. If ANYmal needs to switch back to walking gait, on-board sensors and a motion planning microcontroller selectively control the torque at each wheel. This allows some wheels to brake, using their tire to provide grip, while others roll gradually forward or backward as needed.
Marko Bjelonic is a PhD student working on the development of the upgraded ANYmal robot at the Robotic Systems Laboratory in Zurich. You can watch a video of the new ANYmal prototype above.
“So, the idea of the wheels is kind of obvious, I mean wheels are around for millions of years now. It was obvious for us but nevertheless in legged-robotics, in the research community, it was not really common to add wheels to the legs and most of the researchers nowadays are trying to copy nature so you look at also humans. You build a biped or a quadrupedal robot and you just try to copy nature. But in our research we tried to say ‘OK can we go a little bit further and add something like wheels that was not able to be reproduced by nature itself.”
ANYbotics’ Series A round was led by Swisscom Ventures with participation from co-investors such as Ace & Company, Equity Pitcher, and others.