Grabango launches cashierless checkout in a Giant Eagle supermarket in Pittsburgh

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Grabango, a cashierless technology startup founded by Pandora’s Will Glaser, today announced the launch of a “no-line” payment experience at a Giant Eagle supermarket in Pittsburgh. The GetGo store in Fox Chapel will be the first to launch with Grabango when it comes online starting Tuesday, and the companies say it will be able to process up to millions of transactions at once.

Platforms like Amazon Go piqued public interest in contactless brick-and-mortar payments, but the pandemic is accelerating adoption as retailers scramble to deliver touchless experiences. Earlier this month, rival Standard Cognition inked a deal with Circle K on a cashless convenience store in Phoenix, Arizona. And facial recognition terminals like PopID, which don’t require physically touching buttons, are gaining traction among businesses looking to eliminate spread vectors.

Grabango announced it has raised an additional $14.7 million in venture capital amidst this surge in interest. The round brings the company’s total raised to date to $32 million following a $12 million round in July 2019 that was led by Propel Venture Partners, with participation from Ridge Ventures, Abstract Ventures, Commerce Ventures, and Founders Fund.

Grabango’s product, which the company claims doesn’t use facial recognition or deliver data to third parties, is highly scalable. It’s designed to work in stores with more than 100,000 square feet of floor space and can track hundreds of shoppers at once. (Current store deployments range from 2,000 to 50,000 square feet.) Moreover, the system can keep tabs on “hundreds of thousands” of SKUs to inventory stock, and it integrates with existing point-of-sale systems and store operations platforms.

Grabango

Glaser says the goal is high fault tolerance, which is why the bulk of processing is performed on-premises by a dedicated PC that doesn’t require an internet connection. Grabango’s proprietary item-tracking cameras are both lightweight and inexpensive to manufacture, reducing the cost of install. Stores benefit from greater vision coverage, which helps Grabango generate three-dimensional floor plans and reduce the chance a purchase isn’t recognized as the result of occlusion.

“Grabango employs … proprietary hardware that visually fades into the store’s ceiling. Other providers use off-the-shelf camera technology that results in a much less natural [and less] comfortable shopping environment,” chief business officer Andrew Radlow told VentureBeat via email. “The size of the store does not impact the system’s accuracy, as the system scales linearly. We designed the Grabango system to be truly dynamic and able to cover the entire shopper space, irrespective of how large.”

The system’s machine learning algorithms can recognize objects with a claimed 99.9% accuracy. And unlike Amazon Go, which requires customers to download an app and log into an account before they begin picking things off of shelves, Grabango-powered stores retain their existing cashier setups. Shoppers can check out conventionally with cash, a credit card, a debit card, or SNAP benefits, or they can opt into a cashierless experience with Grabango’s app. In that case, checkout is automatic — customers can walk out by scanning a QR Code to confirm that they’ve finished shopping.

“We are unaware that any other technology competitor has an end-to-end redundant system architecture,” Radlow said. “In the event of an error, customers can easily request a refund from the receipt page on the Grabango app. Customers identify the item in their receipt, select a reason code for requesting the refund, and Grabango customer support will process the request.”

Grabango is currently targeting the U.S., where Glaser said the company’s focus will remain for the foreseeable future. The optimistic plan is to capture the top 30 grocers and top 10 convenience store chains in the U.S. as clients in the coming years. To do so, Grabango has to go head to head with a bevy of new startups, including Zippin and Trigo Vision. It’s well on its way — since Grabango’s incorporation five years ago, the startup has amassed 29 patents related to checkout-free technologies and signed on clients it claims together serve over 600 million shoppers per year.

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Sarcos Robotics raises $40 million to develop an exoskeleton for industrial applications

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Sarcos Robotics, a startup developing robots for industrial and defense applications, today nabbed $40 million in equity financing, bringing its total venture capital raised to nearly $100 million. The company plans to use the capital to commercialize its first full-body, self-powered product — the Guardian XO — ahead of an anticipated 2021 ship date.

According to a 2020 Grand View Research report, the exoskeleton market could be worth $4.2 billion by 2027. The firm sees adoption growing steeply in health care, where exoskeletons could address the increased prevalence of spinal cord injuries in industries like security, disaster recovery, infrastructure inspection and maintenance, maritime, oil and gas, and mining. The National SCI Statistical Center reported 17,730 new spinal cord injuries in 2019 in the U.S. alone.

Sarcos spun out from the University of Utah in 1983 and for years operated as a bioengineering research institution. By 2000, the lab had expanded into segments like animated film props, prostheses, and human-computer interfaces. A DARPA grant to develop a military exoskeleton steered Sarcos toward defense applications. After DARPA accepted Sarcos’ proposal in 2006, the company began developing prototypes and contracted with the U.S. Navy to pilot salvage robots.

Sarcos Robotics

Raytheon bought Sarcos in November 2007 for an undisclosed sum, and from 2007 to 2014 Sarcos operated as Ratheyon’s robotics division focused on technologies for governmental use. The company remained a division of Raytheon until 2015, when Sarcos president and entrepreneur Ben Wolff led a group that acquired the business with venture capital backing.

Sarcos claims past customers include NASA, the Department of Homeland Security; Fortune 100 companies like AT&T, Boeing, Ford, Merck, and Xerox PARC; and universities like MIT and Carnegie Mellon. The company retains a defense division called Sarcos Defense — led by ex-military personnel — that works with the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal, state, local, and international government agencies on research, development, and deployment.

Guardian robots

Sarcos claims the battery-powered Guardian XO enables operators to lift up to 200 pounds while compensating for things like gravity and inertia. A docking station handles charging, while custom attachments paired with a control system minimize latency. Making full use of its 24 degrees of freedom, the Guardian XO’s “hands-free” mode allows a wearer to lock the suit’s arms and perform lifting motions. Redundant hardware and software support passive braking to prevent bodily injury, and the exoskeleton’s modular design allows wearers to don it in 30 seconds without having to remove bulky gear.

Guardian XO has plenty in the way of competition, including LG’s connected robotic suit that gives warehouse workers superhuman strength for lifting things. Startup Roam Robotics recently raised capital to develop sports-focused exoskeletons, and Samsung has teased its take on motorized wearable exoskeleton suits.

Guardian GT

Above: Sarcos Robotics’ Guardian GT.

Image Credit: Sarcos

But Sarcos plans to offer Guardian XO through a subscription-based, multi-year “robot-as-a-service” model that will include maintenance, support, and upgrades. The company says wearers will be able to “augment” the suit through a forthcoming AI platform dubbed Cybernetic Training for Autonomous Robots (CYTAR), which will walk them through specific sets of tasks.

Beyond Guardian XO, Sarcos offers the Guardian S, which is designed for surveillance and inspection. Its snakelike body packs two-way video-, voice-, and data-transmitting hardware capable of carrying up to 10 pounds horizontally and navigating mud, gravel, and water surfaces in confined indoor and outdoor spaces as narrow as seven inches.

The Guardian S, which lasts up to 12 hours on a battery charge (or about 3 miles), can be guided with a remote and is outfitted with sensors that detect infrared light, gas, vibration, location, acceleration, and sound. The IP65-certified, dust-proof robot, which is deployable in less than two minutes, can scale ferromagnetic surfaces while remaining compact and low-profile enough to transport payloads.

Sarcos

The Guardian S’ counterpart — Guardian GT — has two or more seven-foot, seven-degrees-of-freedom dexterous arms mounted on either a track or a wheeled base. Together, they’re able to lift up to 1,000 pounds with task-specific attachments that can reach objects four feet in front, with the robotic arms acting as an extension of the operator’s arm movements.

All of Sarcos’ robots — Guardian XO, Guardian S, and Guardian GT — can be orchestrated from Command Center, a hub that runs atop Microsoft Azure Cloud Services and IoT hub. Command Center offers per-device authentication to set up individual accounts and credentials for all connected machines.

“Sarcos Robotics is uniquely positioned to solve enormous global workforce challenges, such as reducing the economic and social impact of workplace injuries,” said Brian Finn, a partner at Rotor Capital, which led Sarcos’ series C round. “Sarcos is … focused on human augmentation rather than human replacement, delivering the economic and safety benefits of automation to those jobs that can’t be automated because of the complexity of the task or the environment.”

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Cosmose AI raises $15 million to track in-store shoppers using smartphone data

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Location data analytics provider Cosmose AI today announced it raised $15 million in a funding round valuing the company at over $100 million. A spokesperson told VentureBeat the capital will be used to drive customer acquisition and product R&D.

Keeping apprised of shopping trends online is straightforward enough — whole categories of startups achieve this with modeling. But what about when that shopping takes place in-store? Despite (or perhaps because of) the pandemic, physical store brands see tracking the behaviors of mall, outlet, and department shoppers as of critical importance because of its potential to boost engagement (and sales).

To meet demand, in 2014, Miron Mironiuk founded Cosmose within a startup program hosted by venture capital firm Founders Factory. Brands like LVMH, Richemont, Walmart, L’Oreal and Samsung already use the company’s tools to track visitors’ habits and target them with online ads via WeChat, Weibo, Facebook, Google, and over 100 other internet platforms.

Mironiuk says there’s been an uptick in interest, particularly in Asia, following the easing of pandemic-related lockdown restrictions. Earlier this year, the Cosmose platform gathered data from over 360,000 stores — including over 600 luxury and beauty brands and shopping malls in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau — to assess how brands might recover from the pandemic-related fall in foot traffic. More recently, Cosmose inked contracts with Marriott and Walmart, expanded its operations to Japan and Paris, and partnered with a “leading Japanese ecommerce company” to bring the Cosmose platform to new clientele.

Cosmose leverages a combination of machine learning tech and telemetry to deliver a “holistic view” of in-store shoppers. Using an agentless component that draws on data from over 400,000 social media, ride-sharing, and weather apps installed across more than a billion smartphones, Cosmose claims it’s able to pinpoint customers’ locations down to store aisles (about two meters) with 73% accuracy.

Cosmose AI

Above: The mobile Cosmose AI app.

Image Credit: Cosmose AI

An analytics dashboard lets Cosmose customers compare the performance of stores and analyze shoppers’ behavior through a number of lenses (e.g., brands and categories), with the goal of gleaning insights like the best location for a new store. Meanwhile, a predictive product — Cosmose Brain — anticipates when and where shoppers will go by correlating offline purchasing habits with online advertising and behavioral data, spotlighting customers most likely to convert at any moment.

All this helps Cosmose’s advertising orchestration dashboard, Cosmose Media, to show the impact of online ads on visits and measure conversions for every ad format, for each day and store. Cosmose Media also segments customers by their behaviors, like those who leave stores before making a purchase versus those who stop in a fitting room but don’t buy anything.

Cosmose says it doesn’t collect personally identifiable information like phone numbers, email addresses, or serial numbers. Instead, it uses anonymized data from data providers operating under local laws such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Cosmose says it generates a nine-digit number called an OMNIcookie for tracking a minimum of 100 smartphones offline and claims that shoppers can opt out of tracking by filling out a form on its website.

By 2022, Cosmose, which recently opened an office in Poland, aims to expand its ecosystem to over 2 billion smartphones and 10 million stores across Asia. Later this year, the company plans to launch products in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and India, which it believes will propel it to profitability sometime in 2021.

Cosmose’s series A round was led by Tiga Investments with participation from OTB Ventures, TDJ Pitango, and a number of “ultra-high net worth” individuals in Asia. It follows a $12 million seed round in September 2019, bringing the startup’s total raised to date to $27 million.

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