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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

50 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.