ANYbotics, the developers of ANYmal, a four-legged autonomous robotic platform destined for a wide variety of industrial purposes, raised $ 20 million (~ $ 22.3 million) in Round A to further develop and scale the business. With similar robots just beginning to break into the mainstream, the market seems ready to go.
The company was spun off from ETH Zurich in 2016. At this point the robot was already in development. ANYmal is superficially similar to Spot, the well-known quadrupedal robot from Boston Dynamics, but the comparison shouldn’t go too far. A four-legged robot is a natural form to navigate and interact with environments made for humans.
ANYbotics is in the third generation of the robot, which has increasingly integrated processing units and sensors with increasing sophistication.
“Our current ANYmal C model has three integrated high-end Intel i7 computers that drive the robot and customer applications such as automated inspection tasks,” explained co-founder and CEO Péter Fankhauser in an email to .. “The availability of smaller and more powerful sensors powered by AR / VR and autonomous driving applications has enabled us to equip the latest ANYmal model with 360-degree situational awareness and long-range scanning capabilities. When commercially available components are not satisfactory, we invest in our proprietary technologies that have resulted in core components such as custom motors, docking stations, and inspection payload units. “
The most obvious application for robots like ANYmal is the inspection of facilities that would normally involve a human. If a robot can cover the same distances, climb stairs, open doors, etc., it can do this more frequently and more regularly than its human colleagues, who get tired and take breaks. It can also monitor and forward its surroundings in detail, including with lidar and RGB cameras. Humans can then do the harder (and more humane) work of integrating that information and making decisions based on it. An ANYmal in a factory, a power station or a data center can save costs and shoe leather.
Of course, this is of no use if the bot is fragile. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
“With regard to mobility, we have concentrated on what is most important for our industrial customers: operational safety and robustness against harsh environmental conditions,” said Fankhauser. “For example, we design and test ANYmal for day and night use indoors and outdoors, including offshore platforms with salty air and wide temperature ranges. In these environments, it is less about agility and more about performing the tasks reliably and safely several times a day over many months without human intervention. “
Swisscom Ventures leads the round, and partner Alexander Schläpfer said that good roots (ETHZ is of course highly regarded) and good results from early commercial partnerships more than justified their investment.
“Over 10 years ago, some of our co-founders developed their first walking robots while studying at ETH Zurich,” said Fankhauser. “Today industries are ready to adopt this technology and we are using our robots for our early customers.”