They may not be able to dance, but these made-in-Israel robots get the job done
From the farm to the construction site, robots developed by Israeli companies are already hard at work
Tesla CEO Elon Musk made headlines this summer when he presented the “Tesla Bot,” sparking the public imagination with a vision of a humanoid robot that could soon eliminate “dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks,” that are currently carried out by humans.
While the planned android set to run on Tesla’s autonomous vehicle AI is for the time being little more than a slide in Musk’s PowerPoint presentation brought to life by a person dancing in a robot suit, we don’t need to look too far to get excited about robots. Here in Israel, there are already robots that do everything from cooking meals to tending to bees. And while they may not be able to boogie quite like Tesla’s, they are already hard at work fulfilling tasks that are too demanding, intricate, or dangerous for people to do themselves.
Over the last five years alone, nearly 90 Israeli companies that aim to put robots to work on a wide variety of tasks have been founded. Here are five of the startups whose robots we’d like to see dance-off against the Tesla Bot.
At home on the range
Some of the most labor-intensive jobs currently being carried out by humans take place on the farm. From planting to pollinating to weeding to spraying to harvesting, every stage in the growing process, which until now only people could perform, demands a great deal of time and effort. Founded in 2016, Tevel Aerobotics Technologies provided a solution to increase harvesting efficiency and reducing spoilage by employing a fleet of flying robot pickers. The company developed an autonomous driving platform with several tethered robots that fly up and pluck fruit from the trees. Instant artificial intelligence-based analysis of video of the trees allows the robots to pick only the fruit that is ripe. As the robots work, the system constantly updates farmers through a mobile phone app on how many pounds of fruit have been picked, and how much time it will take to finish the harvesting job. The company raised $20 million in a Series B funding round in October 2020.
Cooking up a storm
Who doesn’t want a robot that can cook for them? In an effort to automate the personalized meal preparation process, Israeli company Kitchen Robotics developed Beastro, a robotic ghost kitchen that is capable of cooking various customized, personalized dishes. While it doesn’t look like any chef you’ve ever seen, Beastro can serve up around 45 dishes an hour and is programmed to prepare personalized versions of everything from pasta to salads to stir-fry concoctions and many more. The Israeli-developed robot is particularly suited to large volume establishments and can be integrated with existing takeaway and delivery processes. Founded in 2018, the company has raised a total of $3.25 million in seed funding.
Teslas for the masses?
In his presentation, Musk noted that the Tesla Bot will operate using the same AI used by Tesla’s fleet of autonomous vehicles, but one Israeli company aims to use robots to make any vehicle work autonomously. Founded in 2017, IVObility is the developer of IVO, the Intelligent Vehicle Operator, a universal robotic driving platform. The robot — essentially a mechanical device that’s mounted to the driver’s seat and attached to the vehicle’s steering wheel, pedals, and gear shift — can make any car a self-driving vehicle. The company, which is currently in seed phase received a $56,000 grant from the EU Horizon 2020 Program and is meant to be implemented in low-speed and closed environments such as airports, farms, factories, and mines.
Built for success
Construction is another sector that demands labor-intensive tasks that are seemingly a perfect fit for robots. Israeli company Okibo, develops intelligent, mobile, multi-purpose, and autonomous robots that can replace the dangerous, tedious, and costly work of people on construction sites. The company’s first product is a drywall finishing robot that sits on a mobile platform and uses advanced computer vision, laser detectors, geo-positioning, and inertial motion sensors to operate in projects of all sizes. Founded in 2018, the company has raised $1.1 in seed funding.
Keeping the buzz alive
The least humanoid, but perhaps most humane robot on the list is a beekeeping robot developed by Israeli company Beewise. The company offers autonomous beehives that operate with minimal human intervention by utilizing AI-powered precision robotics. Use of Beewise increases yields reduces colony loss and eliminates the use of chemical pesticides. In addition to its commercial benefits, it also aims to ensure the continued existence of bees, one of the world’s most important organisms that ensure future generations of plants survive through their vital pollination activities. Founded in 2018, Beewise has raised nearly $39 million.
This is just a sampling of the hundreds of robots that are bringing about incredible change to entire industries, many of them developed in Israel. While none of them are going to be winning a dance-off anytime soon, their contribution to efficiency and productivity is worth more than any viral YouTube video.
Written by Ron Friedman, Content Manager at Start-Up Nation Central