UK technology firm Ocado has acquired two robotics start-ups from the US as the company looks to boost efficiency in its warehouses. The purchase of San Francisco firm Kindred Systems for $262 million and Las Vegas-based Haddington Dynamics for $25 million in cash and shares should help the retailer introduce more automation solutions.
Ocado has shown itself to be keen to embrace new technologies at every opportunity - earlier this year, it announced that it had purchased a minority stake in another robotics firm, Myrmex.
Ocado believes that the picking and packing of groceries is one of the hardest challenges in robots, but it is clearly one that the firm is keen to overcome.
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Kindred Systems has made a name for itself through its AI-powered robotics, employing deep reinforcement learning. It is hoped that such technology should help machines to manage disparate items like those found in the retail space. Haddington Dynamics, meanwhile, is a manufacturer of highly dextrous robotic arms that aims to open new opportunities in the field of guided robotic manipulation.
Investors appear pleased with Ocado’s new purchases, with shares in the Group trading up following the acquisitions. The company has enjoyed a good year despite the coronavirus pandemic, benefitting from the increased demand for online shopping.
“We consider the opportunities for robotic manipulation solutions to be significant, both for Ocado Smart Platform clients and across the fast-growing online retail and logistics sectors,” Tim Steiner, CEO of the Ocado Group, explained.
“Ocado has made meaningful progress in developing the machine learning, computer vision and engineering systems required for the robotic picking solutions that are currently in production at our Customer Fulfilment Centre in Erith. Given the market opportunity, we want to accelerate the development of our systems, including improving their speed, accuracy, product range and economics.”
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