After raising a $17.5 million Series B funding round in November 2017, Bossa Nova Robotics raised another $29 million in a venture round for its shelf-scanning mobile robots. The latest round increases the total funding for Bossa Nova to nearly $70 million.
LG Electronics and China Walden Ventures were two new investors, while existing investors Cota Capital, Intel Capital, Lucas Venture Group, and WRV Capital also contributed. Bossa Nova says the new funding will help the company hire 50 percent more employees, including potential international offices, and focus on software improvements, additional data-driven insights, and deployments in smaller stores.
At the moment, Bossa Nova’s mobile robots scan shelves three times a day in 50 Walmart stores across Arkansas, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The robots automate tasks previously held by Walmart’s inventory associates, including figuring out what items are in-stock, out-of-stock, and how well items are selling.
The robots do all this by combining RGB photos and point-cloud images and using AI the data and status of each product. This data is aggregated and sent to management to review. Bossa Nova chief business officer Martin Hitch says data captured by the robots is now helping optimize how workers unload delivery trucks and getting product from the truck to the shelves faster.
The four-wheeled robots move at speeds of 0.4 miles per hour and operate during business hours. Because they’re working while customers are shopping and employees are working, Bossa Nova’s robots use LiDAR and other safety sensors to recognize objects and avoid people.
According to Bossa Nova, the robots have traveled more than 7,000 miles in their time at Walmart stores and have learned how to better navigate their environments. Jeremy King, chief technology officer for all of Walmart’s US stores, said in October 2017 that the robots, at the time, were 50 percent more productive than their human counterparts and can scanned shelves more accurately and three times faster. At that time, Walmart employees were only scanning shelves about twice a week.
Bossa Nova’s partnership with Walmart exclusive, and Bossa Nova is working with other retailers. Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, so it’s no surprise other are following suit to see if robots can help them stave off the retail apocalypse.
“The global retail industry is at a critical inflection point,” says Bruce McWilliams, president and CEO at Bossa Nova. “Today’s retail powerhouses require accurate, real-time product information to create a seamless omnichannel shopping experience expected by all customers.
Bossa Nov also announced a partnership with Flex, a contract manufacturer that will help Bossa Nova scale its production. Established in 2005, Bossa Nova Robotics has 185 employees with offices in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Mountain View.