CommonSense Robotics raises $20M for robotics tech for online grocery fulfilment

CommonSense Robotics, an Israel-based startup developing AI and robotics tech to help online grocery retailers speed up fulfilment and delivery, has raised $20 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Playground Global, with participation from previous investors Aleph VC and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. It brings the company’s total funding to $26 million.

‘The funds will be used to scale up CommonSense Robotics’ facility deployment rate, develop their next generation of robotics and AI, and expand global operations and sales,” says the startup.

Using what it describes as advanced robotics and AI, CommonSense Robotics claims to enable retailers — even relatively small ones — to offer one hour, on-demand grocery deliveries to consumers “at a profitable margin”. It does this by employing robots to power bespoke warehouses or micro-fulfilment centers that are small enough to be placed in urban areas rather than miles away on the outskirts of town.

The robots are designed to store products and bring the right ones to humans who then pack a customer’s order. More robots are then used to get the packaged order out to dispatch. This robot/AI and human combo promises to significantly reduce the cost of on-demand groceries, thus broadening the range of retailers that can compete with Amazon

“Our AI software breaks the order down into robot tasks, and finds the right robots to complete those tasks,” Elram Goren, CEO and co-founder of CommonSense Robotics, tells me.

“We have robots that are capable of moving boxes (totes) around extremely efficiently and at high speeds. Our various types of robots will bring the right totes of products to a stationary human ‘picker’ who in turn packs the order, which is then sent by robots towards the delivery interface where orders are packed into a van or scooter for dispatch”.

In addition, Goren says all of this is designed to happen within a space of about 10,000 square feet made up of a 3D “cube” of racks ie utilising vertical as well as horizontal space.

Explains the CommonSense Robotics CEO: “Our robotics and AI are unique and proprietary with the entire system designed to maximise space efficiencies (how small we can have the warehouse), labor efficiencies (how little we can have human labor in the process), how fast we can deal with an average grocery order (usually less than 3 minutes, where a completely human process takes about 10x that), and how close we can have the centers to the customers”.

Meanwhile, The Tel Aviv company is currently deploying the first generation of its robots in its first operational facility, and has plans to open more facilities in the U.S., U.K. and Israel in 2018.