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Pittsburgh robotics company lands $29M in funding, plans global expansion

Aaron Aupperlee
| Thursday, June 21, 2018, 1:24 p.m.
A Bossa Nova robot scans the shelves at a Walmart.
Bossa Nova
A Bossa Nova robot scans the shelves at a Walmart.

A Pittsburgh robotics company with bots already roaming the aisles of Walmart will use its largest round of funding to date to ready the company for global expansion.

Bossa Nova, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff company, plans to expand around the world after landing $29 million in funding, said Martin Hitch, the company's chief business officer.

Hitch expects the company to add more than 80 employees to the 165 Bossa Nova already has at its offices in Pittsburgh, the Bay Area and Bentonville, Ark., the headquarters of Walmart.

Bossa Nova robots currently works in 50 Walmarts around the country.

Bossa Nova's robots move slowly — about 8 inches a second, less than half a mile per hour — down store aisles, scanning the shelves and capturing 2D and 3D images of the shelves. Data like the amount of a product on the shelves, how the products are positioned and prices are extracted from the photos. The data flows to retailers, who use it to make sure the products customers want are where they should be.

Hitch said a majority of the company's growth will be in data. The company will grow its computer vision and deep learning teams.

“That is all about data,” Hitch said. “How do I take that raw information and extract more data that is useful.”

Pittsburgh is home to the company's support and fleet management teams. Hitch said those divisions will grow into 24/7 operations.

Korean electronics giant LG is among Bossa Nova's new investors. Hitch said LG executives met with the company during their visit to Pittsburgh in November. The investment deal was already in the works at that time, but the visit allowed Bossa Nova to demo its technology in a mock store set up at the company's Strip District office.

Hitch said LG will help the company figure out the right way to take the robots global.

The latest round brings Bossa Nova's total funding to $90 million.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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