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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A startup is bringing improved vision to industrial robots.

Why it matters: As important as the manual abilities of robots are, they need the ability to properly see their environments before they can take a bigger role in industrial workplaces.

What's happening: Akasha Imaging, which focuses on deep imaging and robotic vision, closed on Wednesday a $10.75 million Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures.

  • Akasha uses deep learning to produce 3D images in unstructured environments, which can help train industrial robots to "see" their surroundings and more precisely handle products of all shapes and sizes.
  • "We can create synthetic data and use that to test [robots] in the real world," says Kartik Venkataraman, Akasha Imaging's CEO. "And because the data is synthetic, we can do our testing remotely."

Details: Vision — as you'll know if you've ever tried to, say, wrap a holiday present after misplacing your glasses — is key to manual work. That's especially true if you're operating in the less than fully predictable real world.

  • With robots, "even if our colleagues on the electronics side have done a perfect job, without good vision it's the equivalent of blindfolded humans trying to do packaging," says Achuta Kadambi, the company's chief scientist. "We help take the blindfold off."

The bottom line: Kadambi believes robotic vision will mean robots eventually "will be able to do tasks that are impossible today" — even for humans.

Go deeper: Robots vs. retail workers

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.