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Lyro Robotics secures seed funding to build pick-and-pack robots

Lyro Robotics has secured seed funding to build artificial intelligence-powered pick-and-pack robots.

The Australian company says its software will enable robots to work alongside humans, and enable them to “see and understand the job at hand”.

The company’s plan is to install Lyro’s solutions into the robots which can then be used in call-out duties in time-critical industries.

Lyro says it is developing the algorithms, vision systems, and grippers – “the brain, eyes, and hand” – to make its vision of robotics a reality.

The Brisbane-based venture is an innovative spin-out from the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, a world-first research centre dedicated to expanding the real-world capabilities of robots, enabling them to “see” and “understand” like humans.

First-generation, prototype robotic “hands” developed and tested by Lyro

Lyro is commercialising its world-leading robotic picking and packing technology for deployment in Australia’s warehouses, supply chains, and logistics operations.

Less than six months after incorporating Lyro Robotics, Managing Director and Co-founder Dr Jürgen ‘Juxi’ Leitner and his team are celebrating their first international investment partnership with Japan’s Toyo Kanetsu.

The deep-tech investor, with interests in advancing AI, the internet of things and robotics, has recognised the value of the ambitious startup, injecting seed funding through its corporate venture capital fund, Toyo Kanetsu Corporate Venture Fund II.

It marks the Japanese corporation’s first investment in Australia after being connected with Lyro through Trade and Investment Queensland (TIQ).

TIQ CEO Paul Martyn says: “It’s fantastic to see a young Queensland business securing investment from a major international company.

“High-tech industries like robotics are a major focus of our trade and foreign direct investment strategy in Queensland, and it’s incredibly rewarding for TIQ to facilitate initiatives like this that help diversify and advance Queensland’s trade and investment profile.”

For Dr Leitner, the initial funding is “the first big step” in turning dream to reality, helping Lyro robots roll onto the job.

Dr Leitner says: “We are designing our robots to seamlessly fit into existing factory operations, reducing the need for costly changes of existing workflows.

“They aim to ensure smooth workflow, in particular helping businesses that struggle with labour shortages, especially around seasonal variance.

“Our robots are specifically designed to adapt and learn when working in new conditions and interacting with new items.”

Dr Leitner previously led the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision’s Manipulation and Vision research program before taking the leap into the world of startups with fellow Centre Research Fellow, Dr Nicole Robinson, and former Research Student, Norton Kelly-Boxall.

Lyro Robotics was born after Dr Leitner led “Team ACRV” to victory at the 2017 Amazon Robotics Challenge in Japan with the only custom-built robot in the global competition.

Leitner says: “The bustle of such an international challenge, competing against top university teams as well as big calibre companies is hard to describe in words.”

“It was eye-opening to see the most critical aspects in creating successful robots are, integration of all parts, and a great team that knows how to integrate all these subsystems in the most optimal way.”

Lyro Robotics has also secured QUT robotics researcher, Distinguished Professor Peter Corke, as robotics advisor. Professor Corke is an internationally recognised researcher and teacher in robotics, who founded the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.

Professor Corke said innovative startups like Lyro Robotics, backed by extensive research know-how, were important to Australia’s fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, where the physical and digital worlds collide.

Professor Corke says: “It is not enough for researchers to do fantastic, internationally impactful science if we fail to translate it into tangible benefits for end-users in the real world.

“So, it’s exciting to see Australian Centre for Robotic Vision researchers move forward with Lyro Robotics, and I’m proud to play an advisory role in the company’s future.”

Innovative startups are critical to the future of local ecosystems, and the catalyst behind the establishment of QUT Entrepreneurship.

Executive director Professor Rowena Barrett says: “The focus on entrepreneurship is all about helping staff and students bring innovative ideas to life as ventures that create value for others.”

New and emerging technologies such as robotics are especially important for Australia.

The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, partnered with industry, researchers and government agencies to develop Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap, released in June 2018.

It contains a suite of recommendations on ways industry, government, educational institutions, investors and the wider public can better harness these technologies.

Professor Corke says: “The original idea behind developing the Roadmap was to help identify companies operating in the space of robotics and computer vision here in Australia to get a better sense of their operations and value to the economy.

“Thanks to the Roadmap, we know that Australia has more than 1,100 companies operating in the robotics space, employing more than 50,000 people and generating more than $12 billion in revenue to the economy.

“That’s something we want to continue to grow.”

According to a 2017 report commissioned by Google, Australia has the potential to seize a trillion-dollar opportunity, if automation is embraced.

In Queensland alone, a quick uptake of robotics and AI technologies will create more than 700,000 jobs and a billion-dollar boost to the economy over the next 10 years, according to a separate report by Synergies Economic Consulting in collaboration with the Queensland Government and QUT.

Dr Leitner says his team at Lyro Robotics is “excited to help lead the push”, creating “the brains, eyes and hands” for the next generation of truly useful robots.

Leitner says: “Lyro is one avenue to get the latest breakthrough in robotics and AI ‘out there’ – out of the Lab – to make a real difference.

“It is still early days for robotics. Lyro has a long-term vision with a pipeline of projects ranging from close to home all the way to out-of-this world applications – think, outer space.”

Lyro Robotics plans to use the Toyo Kanetsu Corporate Venture Investment Partnership seed funding to extend its team and deploy robots with an exclusive list of early adopters, while further developing globally competitive picking and packing solutions.

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