November 6, 2014 / 5:40 PM / 5 years ago

ABB invests in U.S. artificial intelligence company

A logo of Swiss engineering group ABB is seen on a building in Zurich February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss engineer ABB has invested in U.S. artificial intelligence research company Vicarious in a move it hopes will eventually boost its robotics division.

ABB, which also makes products such as power grid transformers, invested in the San Francisco-based business in expectation that rising wage costs in a wide variety of industries will make labor-saving technologies such as robotics increasingly attractive.

The investment was made through ABB’s venture capital unit ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), the Swiss company said on Thursday. Though it did not disclose the size of the investment, head of ATV Girish Nadkarni told Reuters the cost of its stake was less than an eight-figure sum.

Vicarious is aiming to develop human-level intelligence in vision, language and motor control for robots. Nadkarni said this would help ABB to develop robots able to recognize objects and their attributes.

“That would be a significant step up for any form of automation or machine learning,” he said.

In September ABB showcased its YuMi robot, which can work and collaborate with humans.

Since its launch in 2010, Vicarious has raised around $70 million. The company’s website lists Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel among its investors.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by David Goodman

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