Shenzhen-based robotics R&D startup Pudu Technology today announced an over $15 million round. The company claims over 2,000 hotel, restaurant, and hospital customers — including Sheraton and JD.com — across 20 countries. It will use the funds to develop new products, expand sales, and explore markets overseas.
The pandemic has accelerated the demand for robotic solutions, as they’re inherently contactless. Because customers and delivery workers are exposed to disinfected robots rather than each other, robots promise to limit the spread of infection while addressing gaps in on-demand delivery capacity.
Pudu sells a number of low-speed, autonomous, self-charging robots designed to ferry goods and interact with customers in hospitality and service settings. BellaBot, which the company describes as a “full-dimensional sensory” delivery robot, features a linkage suspension system for added stability and a modular chassis with built-in obstacle avoidance sensors. Holabot is designed to collect plates, with a high carrying capacity (120 liters), water-resistant design, and gesture recognition.
During the health crises, Pudu says its robots have provided contact-free delivery services in hundreds of hospitals worldwide, chiefly in Seoul, Beijing, and Wuhan. The company claims a single one of its robots can deliver up to 300 trays of meals a day, exceeding 400 at peak volume.
All of Pudu’s robots sport Pudu X EAI, a custom-designed lidar sensor that samples light at 18,000 times per second. It’s part of the company’s proprietary simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithm that draws on a range of sensors — including cameras, lidars, inertial measurement units, depth sensors, and radar — to deliver “centimeter-level” real-time positioning and map construction.
On the software side, Pudu offers Pudu Cloud, which handles things like business, operations, and maintenance management and scenario data collection. For instance, Pudu Scheduler allows customers to let the robots directly communicate with other robots on the same network, eliminating the need for a server. An AI voice module supports hundreds of dialog contexts. And cross-platform apps enable monitoring from smartwatches, tablets, pagers, and smartphones.
Beijing-based ecommerce company Meituan-Dianping exclusively led this latest investment in Pudu. The series B follows the completion of a 50 million yuan (~$7 million) round in June 2018, bringing Pudu’s total raised to over $20 million.
Pudu’s other notable customers include Sichuan-based hot pot restaurant chain Haidilao and food delivery app operator Wowa Brothers, to which the company sold over 5,000 robots last year. Pudu says it currently employs more than 100 people across its Shenzhen headquarters, its branch in Chengdu, and its service centers in over 60 cities in China.