In the competitive landscape of technology, big tech firms and startups are engaged in a race to create the next commercially viable humanoid robot. Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk, made waves when they unveiled the prototype of their humanoid robot named ‘Optimus’ last year. Musk projected that Tesla could begin taking orders for the robot within three to five years, offering it at a price below $20,000.
On similar lines, Figure, a startup focused on manufacturing general-purpose humanoid robots, announced that it successfully raised $70 million in its first external funding round. Parkway Venture Capital led the investment, demonstrating significant confidence in Figure’s vision and potential.
The newly acquired funds will be allocated to accelerate the development and production of Figure’s first autonomous humanoid robot, scheduled for its debut in the coming months. Although the valuation of the one-year-old company was undisclosed, sources estimate its worth to exceed $400 million. Notably, Brett Adcock, Figure’s creator and CEO, personally invested $20 million in the financing. Other prominent investors include Aliya Capital and Bold Ventures.
The potential impact of humanoid robots
Headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, Figure is at the forefront of creating general-purpose humanoid robots capable of performing a wide range of tasks across various situations, from warehouses to retail environments. The company is currently engaged in discussions with retailers to explore the potential for commercialization.
According to Adcock, a former founder at Archer Aviation, Figure sets itself apart from other robotics companies such as Boston Dynamics and Amazon Robotics by focusing on building robots capable of handling general jobs. The ultimate objective is to enable these robots to learn and interact with their environment.
“We believe general-purpose humanoid robots have far more potential than single-purpose robots,” said Adcock. “Their deployment in the workforce can address labor shortages and, over time, lead the way in eliminating the need for unsafe and undesirable jobs.”
Founded in 2018 by Alana Ackerson, Cynthia Chen, June Ou, Michael Cagney, and Sara Priola, Figure initially offered consumer financial solutions for home repair, debt consolidation, and retirement planning. Leveraging blockchain, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics, the company provided innovative financial services, including home equity release options, with quick access to capital in as little as five days.
With the latest funding round, Figure aims to propel the development of humanoid robots and contribute to their integration into various industries, ushering in a new era of automation and addressing the challenges posed by labor shortages.
Humonaids: The race to win
Apart from Tesla, there are several startups and companies working on humanoid robots.
Boston Dynamics: Boston Dynamics is a renowned robotics company known for its advanced humanoid robots. Their robots, such as Atlas and Spot, have gained widespread recognition for their agility and capabilities in tasks like walking, running, and navigating challenging terrain.
SoftBank Robotics: SoftBank Robotics is a subsidiary of SoftBank Group and focuses on developing humanoid robots for various applications. Their most well-known robot is Pepper, a social humanoid robot designed to interact with humans and provide assistance in different environments, including retail, hospitality, and healthcare.
Hanson Robotics: Hanson Robotics is a company specialising in creating lifelike humanoid robots with realistic facial expressions and human-like features. Their most famous creation is Sophia, a social humanoid robot capable of holding conversations and interacting with humans.
Toyota Research Institute (TRI): TRI is Toyota’s research and development organization that explores advanced technologies, including robotics. They have been working on developing humanoid robots, such as the T-HR3, which aims to enhance human-robot interaction and assist in tasks that require dexterity and mobility.
PAL Robotics: A Spanish company that designs and manufactures humanoid robots for various applications, including research, healthcare, and customer service. Their robots, such as REEM-C and TIAGo, are designed to assist in different environments and perform tasks with human-like capabilities.
Hanson Robotics: Another prominent startup in the field, Hanson Robotics is known for creating lifelike humanoid robots with advanced facial expressions and interactive capabilities. Sophia, their most famous creation, has garnered significant attention worldwide for her ability to engage in conversations and display emotions.
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