The Sino-Israeli Robotics Institute (SIRI) was inaugurated in mid-December when a delegation of nine Israeli companies -- led by Ariel University Prof. Zvi Shiller, chair of the Israeli Robotics Association, and Technion Prof. Moshe Shoham, founder of Mazor Robotics and a world leader in medical robotics -- participated in the second Sino-Israeli Robotics Innovation Conference in Guangzhou, China. Intended as "home base" for Israeli robotics companies entering the Chinese market, SIRI is located at the Guangzhou International Robotics Center (ROBOHUB), a government-supported, 4,800-square-meter robotics incubator and demonstration center including a large exhibition and demo area, innovation lab, training center, and corporate offices. "This is an exciting time for the Israeli robotics industry," Shiller said. "We are committed to establishing a true partnership with SIRI and ROBOHUB, and we look forward to broadening this strategic cooperation, which will serve as a fast track for transforming ideas into products and for moving products into the Chinese market." The conference attracted some 100 robotics companies from Guangdong Province, more than 40 of which held B2B meetings with the Israeli companies.
It was a busy and abundant year for seed, crowd, series A,B,C,D and VC funding of robotics-related startups. Velodyne LiDAR got the most money in 2016, $150 million, with Zymergen and UBTech also getting over $100 million each. In monthly recaps by The Robot Report, fundings grew until they peaked in August and then dipped in December. August was the month when Velodyne got their $150 million and Quanergy got $90 million. The next highest in August was $35 million for FormLabs.
At a large wine chateau in the region of Bordeaux, France, busy robots use artificial intelligence and other technologies to pick and screen grapes as well as make wine. The chateau might be the world's first such facility to use AI to improve and optimize grape planting and wine brewing, said Zhou Jinting, chairman of Shanghai Hefu Holding (Group) Co Ltd, at the World Robot Conference in Beijing last month. Hefu bought the chateau last year. Zhou said he believes the rapid development of AI, robotics, intelligent machines, big data and cloud computing will bring revolutionary changes to the wine industry as well as a wide range of traditional industries. The chateau is a pilot project of Hefu's AI and robotic technologies that are applied in changing traditional production methods.
Robots must be smarter if they're going to pack boxes in warehouses, scan inventory in stores, and even care for the elderly. The rise of machine learning in recent years is making that possible. Steady innovation has led to robots that can independently "learn" to navigate tight corridors and grasp delicate objects without crushing them. Some of the leading American and Japanese robotics companies and investors recently gathered in Menlo Park, Calif. to discuss artificial intelligence in robotics and its impact on business. But it may require some cooperation between the U.S. and an important overseas ally.