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Innovation

Relative unknown pulls biggest-ever funding for AI-enabled logistics robots

A Chinese firm still relatively unknown outside Asia has set the stage to dominate automation logistics.
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Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer on

Chinese firm Geek+, which makes robots for logistics, manufacturing, and retail, just announced the closing of $150 million in Series B funding. According to the company's estimates, it's the largest-ever financing for AI-enabled logistics robots.

The announcement is especially eye-opening given how recently Geek+ burst onto the scene. As I wrote in April, the three-year-old company is largely unknown outside of its native China, where practically overnight it has become the country's largest native supplier of logistics automation.

Also: 5 things to know about soft robotics TechRepublic

Following a growing trend of full-stack logistics automation, Geek+ plus brings AI, Big Data, Cloud Computing, and IoT technologies to its Kiva-like warehouse robots. Quickly deployable and infinitely reconfigurable, the robots streamline picking and placing and logistics functions while also collecting data that helps users refine and streamline operations.

Compellingly, the firm, which has already deployed more than 5,000 robots across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, and elsewhere, has chosen to diversify its automation offerings across multiple platforms. The company makes a "goods-to-person" picking system, an intelligent warehouse moving system, a sorting system, and an automated forklift.

That's in contrast to other robotics startups that have chosen to focus efforts on one or two specialized platforms, such as Locus Robotics or BossaNova. Rethink Robotics, which puts all its eggs into two flagship platforms, recently went belly up due to an insurmountable platform-customer mismatch.

Also: Sophia the robot walks for the first time CNET

But diversifying in the automation hardware game costs money -- a lot of money. The recent Series B brings Geek+'s total funding to $239.4 million. The firm has been helped significantly by China's 2025 plan, which emphasizes self-sufficiency in automation and robotics, among other onshoring initiatives.

So far, Geek+ robots have been deployed in industries like e-commerce, logistics, automotive, fast fashion, and pharmaceuticals.

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