E-commerce & FulfillmentFulfillmentModern ShipperNewsRecent NewsStartupsTechnologyTop Stories

Agility Robotics raises $150M for walking warehouse robots

Firm builds robotics solutions to work alongside humans in logistics

Agility Robotics has landed a $150 million series B funding round as it looks to expand use of its warehouse robots.

The funding round was led by DCVC and Playground Global with participation from Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) new $1 billion Industrial Innovation Fund. Seven-year-old Agility Robotics produces warehouse robots that work alongside humans with the ability to walk floors, climb stairs and navigate unstructured environments, all while carrying packages and stacking goods in warehouse fulfillment applications.

“Unprecedented consumer and corporate demand have created an extraordinary need for robots to support people in the workplace,” said Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility Robotics. “With this investment, Agility can ramp up the delivery of robots to fill roles where there’s an unmet need.”

Agility has robots in operation in warehouses across the country, including at facilities operated by Ford Motor Co.


Watch: A robotic future


“Agility is set to make a powerful impact, developing and shipping robots that are built to coexist seamlessly in our lives,” said Bruce Leak, general partner, Playground Global. “Since Agility’s earliest days, we’ve believed their unique technical approach stands alone in being able to deliver on the promise of practical everyday robots.”

Agility previously closed a $20 million funding round in 2020 co-led by DCVC and Playground Global with additional funding from TDK Ventures, MFV Partners, Industrial Technology Investment Corp., Sony Innovation Fund and Safar Partners.

Total funding is $178.8 million, according to Crunchbase. No new valuation was provided with the latest funding.

Solving labor shortages

“We’re deepening our investment in Agility Robotics because their robots solve the labor shortages plaguing businesses and wreaking havoc on supply chains,” said Matt Ocko, co-managing partner, DCVC. “Agility’s robots are designed to free people from repetitive or unpleasant tasks, allowing them to take on the more fulfilling work they can do better than any robot.”

CTO and co-founder Jonathan Hurst initially developed a prototype leg joint for a robot at the Robotics Institute’s Microdynamic Systems Lab at Carnegie Mellon in 2002. In a blog post accompanying the new funding round, Hurst detailed his relationship with co-founder Shelton and the vision the duo shared.

“We believed then that the emerging technologies in legged locomotion would make a viable business opportunity possible at some point in our careers and were aligned from the start that robots should be built for society’s greater good. He pursued an entrepreneurial path while I pursued an academic one and, when the stars aligned in 2015, we founded Agility Robotics along with Mikhail Jones, my star student,” Hurst wrote.

Hurst went on to detail how multitask robotics is among the most difficult to achieve, requiring greater intelligence, an adaptable form factor and greater complexity.

“But consider analogies in the animal kingdom: While some species are specialized or adapted to their environment, the most successful species — including people — are generalists. We can do many things well enough, and we’re adaptable. A fleet of robots that can do many things and flex to demand and workflow needs will be more useful than a fleet of single-purpose robots,” he wrote.

“At Agility, we’re building robots that are designed not just with near-human form but also with human dynamics in physical interaction, enabling them to move seamlessly through our workspaces,” Hurst added. “These robots can walk, crouch low to pick up a box from the floor, reach to place a box high on a shelf, balance when bumped into, pause when sensing a person or barrier in its path, and maneuver around a barrier. Sequenced together, these skills enable real task versatility in a workplace filled with people. This dynamism and versatility are what enable them to handle the boring, repetitive and sometimes painful tasks that should be automated.”

Click for more articles by Brian Straight.

You may also like:

Drones are flying into weather data deserts. Can they be stopped?

Navigating COVID-19 shipping chaos: Finding capacity and servicing the customer

Need a warehouse? You may have to wait 9 months

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at bstraight@freightwaves.com.