AI Startup Figure Raises $70 Million for Humanoid Robot

AI robotics startup Figure raised $70 million to help develop a humanoid robot that it believes could one day take on a wide range of tasks traditionally performed by people.

(Bloomberg) — AI robotics startup Figure raised $70 million to help develop a humanoid robot that it believes could one day take on a wide range of tasks traditionally performed by people.

The Sunnyvale, California-based company thinks its futuristic robot, called Figure 01, will be able to address labor shortages, do dangerous jobs and help support the global supply chain, the company said. 

“We hope that we’re one of the first groups to bring to market a humanoid that can actually be useful and do commercial activities,” founder and Chief Executive Officer Brett Adcock said in an interview. “We believe that the structured, repetitive, and often dangerous tasks in warehouses are a great potential first application.” 

Adcock founded Figure in 2022 and its 50-person team includes former staffers from Boston Dynamics, Tesla Inc., Google’s moonshot research lab and others. Figure, like most companies working on human-like robots, sees warehouses as the main opportunity for commercialization for now. 

Figure is entering an expanding market for robotics and drones, with $5.73 billion of total capital raised in 2022, according to data from PitchBook. There’s a lot of competition, too. Vancouver-based Sanctuary AI has been working on several iterations of its humanoid robot called Phoenix, a 170 centimeter (five-foot-seven-inch) robot. Norwegian firm 1X made headlines in March when it received $23.5 million in funding from OpenAI and others. And Elon Musk has said Tesla is working on a humanoid robot called Optimus.

Figure plans to offer its robot services via a subscription-based contract. The model will make the robot more affordable than purchasing it outright and allow the company to do simultaneous updates in software and hardware, Adcock said. 

Figure 01, which is not on the market yet, will be demonstrated in warehouses within the next 12 months and piloted in commercial areas with one or two clients within the next two years, the company said. It may take as long as five years for the robots to be adopted for wider use.

Adcock said the firm is considering incorporating generative AI into the robot to enhance its semantic behaviors and help it better understand simple human commands like, “Go grab me an apple.” Generative AI, which was popularized by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, uses algorithms to comb through vast quantities of text and data to create new content including images, text and video.

Google researchers are already working on combining generative AI with robots. They’ve developed PaLM-E, an embodied language model that integrates vision and language commands in a robotic platform. 

“I think it’s going to be really important in the future to have humanoids interacting with humans,” Adcock said. 

Figure’s funding was led by Parkway Venture Capital and joined by Adcock, as well as venture capital firms Aliya Capital, Bold Ventures, Tamarack Global, FJ Labs, and Neura Robotics CEO Till Reuter. 

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