LG invests $60m in Silicon Valley robot startup


LG Electronics is making a strategic investment in Bear Robotics in the US in a move to expedite the advancement of its commercial service robotics, the company said Tuesday.

The tech giant said it has executed a stock purchase agreement to acquire a stake in Bear Robotics, a prominent Silicon Valley-based startup specializing in artificial intelligence-driven autonomous service robots, through an investment of $60 million.

LG’s strategic investment comes as the company is preparing for a transition towards software-defined robots. Anticipating future growth, the company said it is committed to developing scalable service robots on an open architecture software platform.

“As the service robot market enters a period of growth, this equity investment will significantly contribute to securing a competitive edge for the company,” Lee Sam-soo, chief strategy officer at LG Electronics said.

“From a mid-to-long-term perspective, we will seek to develop our robot business into a new growth engine, exploring various opportunities through the integration of cutting-edge technologies such as Embodied AI and robotic manipulation.”

Upon closing the stock purchase, the company will hold the largest portion of shares in Bear Robotics on a single-shareholder basis. The strategic investment is aimed at bolstering LG's portfolio for its long-term growth, rather than short-term returns, LG explained.

Bear Robotics was founded by CEO John Ha, a former senior software engineer and technical lead at Google. The company has gained recognition for its AI-powered indoor delivery robots catering to markets in the US, Korea and Japan.

According to LG, Bear Robotics is drawing attention for its expertise in the platformization of service robotics software, robot fleet management technology and cloud-based control solutions.

Recognizing the critical importance of standardizing AI-based autonomous robot platforms, LG said it is committed to developing scalable service robots on an open architecture software platform so that it can cater to a variety of environments.

Bear Robotics CEO also underscored the importance of standardized open platforms in the robot market.

“Just as Android revolutionized the smartphone era, standardized open platforms are essential for the activation of the robot market,” Ha said.

By combining Bear Robotics’ world-class R&D talents and software platform expertise with its strengths, LG aims to spearhead efforts in standardizing robot platforms to significantly reduce market-entry costs, thereby enhancing operational efficiency and fostering synergies, LG said.

Robot business is one of LG's core pillars of its portfolio. LG first deployed its guide robots at Incheon International Airport in 2017, and has since introduced tailored solutions for diverse commerce settings, encompassing delivery and disinfection services, the company said.

“In the service robotics market, we’re focusing primarily on areas such as delivery and logistics. However, we are carefully considering future directions, keeping open the possibility of equity investments or mergers and acquisitions,” LG Electronics CEO Cho Joo-wan had said, discussing potential equity investment at CES 2024, a tech show held in January.

LG currently runs a facility dedicated to the production of service robots at the LG Future Park in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province. It has also been actively pursuing global expansion, tapping into markets including the US, Japan and Southeast Asia.

The size of the global service robotics market is expected to grow from $36.2 billion in 2021 to 103.3 billion by 2026.

Jo He-rim

The Korea Herald

Asia News Network