Anyware Robotics emerged from stealth mode this week with its autonomous trailer unloading solution called Pixmo. The Fremont, Calif.-based company was formed in 2023 by CEO Thomas Tang, CTO Bruce Fan, Chief Engineer Sam Zhou, and VP of Product Torsten Schreiber.
The team raised $5 million in seed funding in March 2023. The company said Pixmo was developed based on years of research and Fan’s personal experience, who unloaded containers while working for his parents’ warehousing business.
Tang, Fan, and Zhou all earned robotics PhDs at the University of California, Berkeley, and collectively have 25 robotics patents. Tang and Fan both worked at major robotics supplier FANUC, where Fan was a founding member of the FANUC Advanced Research Lab, and Tan worked on the commercialization of AI-powered robotic solutions. Schreiber held various senior roles at GreyOrange. The founding team brings a mix of real-world and academic robotics experiences together in their quest to build a solution to the trailer unloading problem.
How Pixmo uses AI and machine learning
Pixmo is a mobile manipulator that combines an omnidirectional autonomous mobile robot (AMR) base, a FANUC cobot arm with six degrees of freedom, a suction gripper for case handling, and AI-powered perception and motion planning systems. Pixmo’s mobile base moves into the trailer or container to extract the boxes and place them onto an outfeed conveyor.
Anyware Robotics said Pixmo is built on a software stack that combines perception algorithms, learning-based motion planning, and a data generation pipeline for AI training. The adaptive approach enables Pixmo to be deployed quickly on-site, adjusting and learning on the fly and continuously enhancing reliability. It also enables it to manage the complexity of shifting boxes during transit, box orientation, box size, number of SKUs, carton sizing, and packaging quality, the company said.
Pixmo uses a force-sensing cobot arm for box unloading. Anyware Robotics said this can give warehouse managers peace of mind that the robot can safely work in environments where humans may suddenly move into its path.
“Automated truck and container unloading is a nascent market,” said Tang. “Our robotic solution strikes a balance between capability and cost-effectiveness, plus it adds a strong safety component. The safety features help enable the great versatility of Pixmo in the future.”
While Anyware Robotics is focused on truck unloading for now, the company said in the future Pixmo could be used for a variety of other tasks within the warehouse. These capabilities may include palletizing, depalletizing, case picking, and other tasks that will further enhance the ROI of the robots.
Pixmo will be available for purchase in the summer of 2024. It will be available via either a capital purchase or a robots-as-a-service (RaaS) contract. The company is taking orders now ahead of the official availability date. Pixmo will be demoed publicly for the first time at Booth A11227 at MODEX, March 11-14, 2024, in Atlanta, GA.
Container unloading is a big opportunity
The U.S. receives some 28 million containers each year, the majority of which contain boxes containing goods that must be unloaded. While trailer unloading is a growing application for robots, Anyware already faces stiff competition. Boston Dynamics, Dexterity, Pickle Robot Co., Rightbot, Mujin, and others are developing robots for trailer loading and unloading.
Boston Dynamics has found early success with its Stretch robot that is being deployed by the likes of DHL, NFI, Otto Group — which were all multi-million dollar contracts. Pickle recently announced Yusen Logistics as a customer. Yusen said it unloads 200,000 containers annually. Mujin has raised $104 million in Series C funding, and Rightbot picked up $6.25 million from Amazon.
Anyware Robotics said Pixmo is designed for unloading at transload facilities, cross docks, third-party logistics providers (3PLs), distribution centers, and e-commerce fulfillment warehouses.
“Truck unloading is an excellent example of where robots can greatly contribute to making the world a better place,” said Tang. “Humans have been doing an admirable job in that heavy and demanding work, but there are too many injuries. Pixmo can help to significantly reduce those injuries while improving the throughput of the logistics operations.”
Anyware Robotics said it is currently running pilot programs with various companies in the U.S. It also said it recently completed its first pilot with an import deconsolidation business that manages 21 warehouses in the U.S. According to Anyware Robotics, the client purchased multiple Pixmo units after the robot met the throughput requirements.