Bear Robotics is a Redwood, California-based start-up with 40 employees, according to techCrunch, amedia outlet. The company has been developing robots to feed restaurant customers. The document sets out a target of $35.8 million. John Ha, founder and chief executive of Bear Robotics, said the company had completed a $32 million Round A financing on Wednesday.
The funding was led by SoftBank Group, whose other recent robotics “bets” include Zume, the now-troubled food trucking company, and Berkshire Grey, a warehouse robotics company that produces picking, packaging and sorting robots for distribution centers. It raised a staggering $263 million in a round of B-financing led by SoftBank.
TechCrunch also interviewed a former Intel research scientist and Google technology executive to share more information about the company and its robotics products, and in recent years he has opened and closed his own restaurants.
TC: You are an engineer at Google. Why open your own restaurant?
JH: It’s not about my dream of owning a restaurant; it’s more of an investment. It sounds interesting, but it turns out it’s not. What i’m really shocked about is how hard it involves and how low the income of the employees is. I feel (because I have to shut it down) it’s going to be my life’s job – to change the restaurant industry with the skills I have. I want to eliminate the heavy work and the heavy lifting so that humanity can focus on the real human side, that is, hospitality. In restaurants, you’re selling food and services, but most of your time is with hiring and customers, and I doubt our products will change.
TC: How did you come up with the first idea or iteration of the robot you created, the robot you callPenny?
JH: First of all, my restaurant staff and I often talk, “If we had this robot, what would it look like?” What capacity and functionality does it need? I know it can’t be too big. Robots must be able to move well in narrow spaces. We also focus on the right capacity. And we don’t want to be a robot restaurant. I want to build a robot that no one really cares about. It’s just in the background, like Luke Skywalker’s R2-D2. This is an assistant – a weak robot that can complete tasks for the owner.
TC: Let’s talk about some of the content. How are these things built?
JH: This is a self-driving technology for indoor space, so it can safely navigate from point A to point B. The server put the food on Penny and found a way to reach the table. It has a two-wheel differential drive and caster. It’s safe Many similar-looking robots have blind spots, but we don’t. It can detect the hand of a baby on the floor – even a wallet that falls off someone’s desk.
We don’t use robotic arms because it’s very difficult to make them 100% safe when you’re using them in a crowded space. This material (which will be plastic) is safe and easy to clean and can be used with disinfectants and detergents used in restaurants. We must also make sure that the wheels do not accumulate food waste, because that can lead to problems in the health sector.
TC: So that hasn’t happened yet.
JH: We’re not in mass production yet.
TC: Where will these be built and how much will it cost?
JH: They will be made somewhere in Asia, maybe China or some other country. And we haven’t figured out the pricing yet, but restaurants will rent these restaurants instead of buying them, and they’ll pay a monthly subscription for the White Gloves service, so they don’t have to worry about maintenance or support.
TC: How customizable are these Penny robots? Do you have a different service level?
JH: Penny can be configured in a variety of modes. The default is to hold three pallets, so it can deliver food to the table, or the server can use it to get bus help.
TC: Will it serve the customer?
JH: Penny can speak and play voices, but there’s no dialogue. It says, “Please take food” or play music while moving. There, customers may personalize the robot for their own purposes.
TC: The ultimate idea is where to sell it – just restaurants?
JH: No matter where you serve food, it’s now being tested in some restaurants/casinos and some houses. (I’m sure we’ll add) nursing homes.