Today, Seegrid announced the strategic acquisition of Box Robotics, a mobile robotics startup, to accelerate the development of human-like situational awareness for self-driving industrial vehicles. We sat down with Seegrid CEO Jim Rock to talk about what this acquisition means for the future of Seegrid and the autonomous industrial vehicle industry.
Q: What does this acquisition mean for the future of Seegrid and autonomous vehicles?
Jim Rock: Our industrial mobile robots and enterprise software for material handling automation create human-machine partnerships that deliver profitability for manufacturing and distribution customers around the world. Seegrid and Box Robotics are perfectly aligned in our mission to bring enhanced 3D situational awareness and predictability to autonomous vehicles, helping businesses in the supply chain network ensure a safe, steady flow of goods. This acquisition will help accelerate next-generation perception and bring more human-like, situational awareness technology to Seegrid’s vision guided vehicles, making our manufacturing, distribution, and e-commerce fulfillment customers even more productive.
Q: Why acquire Box Robotics?
JR: First and foremost, the founders, Tom Panzarella and John Spletzer, are extremely accomplished computer vision and robotics developers and entrepreneurs that deeply understand the problems facing automation for the materials handling industry. Tom and John founded Box Robotics to focus on providing advanced situational awareness and agility to industrial mobile robots. Seegrid and Box Robotics are perfectly aligned in our mission to bring full 3D situational awareness and predictability to our next-generation robots. This acquisition will accelerate the deployment of even more advanced functionality for our vehicles.
Q: What will Tom and John’s roles be at Seegrid?
JR: Both Tom and John are joining the Seegrid team, where they will lead our perception engineering team and focus on adding best-in-class 3D situational awareness to Seegrid’s already industry-leading 3D vision-based navigation.
Q: You mentioned situational awareness. Can you explain what that means and why it matters?
JR: Situational awareness matters to our customers. Seegrid uses proprietary, patented 3D navigation technology using cameras, algorithms, and machine learning to give our robots a human sense of space: it’s how Seegrid’s robots know where they are in a busy warehouse and confidently navigate and accomplish tasks. In 2019, we introduced a 3D perception stack to enhance Seegrid VGVs’ situational awareness. The more enhanced understanding the robots have of their environment, the better the ability to make decisions across a greater number of situations. Enhancing the ability of Seegrid’s VGVs to comprehend situations strengthens our ability to solve problems in our customers’ real-world, live production environments.
Q: Will this acquisition make Seegrid’s products better?
JR: Absolutely. Adding technology advancements and the talent and experience of Tom and John to Seegrid’s engineering efforts supports our development goals to increase our vision guided vehicles’ ability to interpret the world around them without human intervention. With a strong human-sense of space and understanding, Seegrid self-driving vehicles can do even more productive, meaningful work for our customers.
The biggest brands in the world already trust Seegrid to provide the best solutions for automating material flow in their facilities, including increasing throughput productivity, improving employee and facility safety, reducing labor and operation costs, creating human-machine partnerships, driving continuous improvement, and advancing innovation initiatives. This acquisition helps our customers achieve unmatched levels of productivity and safety.
Q: Is it difficult for humans to work alongside your vehicles?
JR: Seegrid VGVs are dynamic and operate confidently alongside people in ever-changing, complex environments. Safety is a critical factor in the design and deployment of Seegrid VGVs, which operate seamlessly and safely alongside human workers. Our VGVs have driven 4 million autonomous miles, all without a single safety incident.
Q: How has the pandemic impacted Seegrid?
JR: We understand 2020 has been a difficult year for many businesses throughout the world, but we are thankful the Seegrid team has been able to step up and help solve pressing issues for our customers. The pandemic has accelerated the demand for automation solutions, particularly across the material handling industry, to help meet the additional pressures put on supply chains and the increased health and safety concerns of employees.
Not only do we expect to double our revenue this year, but we also recently closed a $52 million growth equity financing round, bringing our total funding to more than $150 million. We have also expanded our team and plan to hire more than 100 employees this year to support our growing customer base.
Q: What does the future look like for Seegrid?
JR: The future looks bright for Seegrid. We only expect demand to increase for our automated solutions, and we’re excited to continue providing the increased productivity and uncompromised safety that our customers need in today’s changing world.
Seegrid Acquires Box Robotics to Accelerate Development of Human-Like Awareness for More Consistent and Productive Self-Driving Industrial Vehicles