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What robotics’ biggest raises tell us about the industry’s future

Warehouse fulfilment, construction, surgical and agriculture are key targets for automation

I visited Boston last week and met with a number of robotics researchers, startups and established companies — more on that later — in the lead up to TechCrunch’s fourth annual TC Sessions Robotics + AI in early March. A big part of prepping for that event and my recent trip involved surveying some of the biggest funding raises from the past year.

A quick survey of these trends finds most investments concentrated in a handful of key categories. From there, we can get a pretty clear view of what the robotics industry will look like in the coming years and the roles we can expect these machines to play in our daily lives.

The definition of robotics is, of course, broad and only getting broader, as these technologies grow and mature. It’s worth noting that for the sake of my own research, I’ve mostly excluded autonomous driving — one of the key targets of robotics investment. It is, perhaps, an arbitrary distinction that has more to do with the way we categorize technologies — placing them in automotive or mobility, as opposed to robotics.

Artificial intelligence startups, too, are included sparingly for similar reasons. With those caveats in mind, these verticals have been the key focuses of robotics investments: warehouse automation/fulfillment, construction, retail/food, agriculture and surgical/medical.

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