The Humanoid Robot StartUp Figure AI Attracted the Support of Open AI, NVIDIA, Microsoft, and Jeff Bezos’ VC

IBL News | New York

The final form for ChatGPT is not a bot.

Figure AI, a startup working to build humanoid robots that can perform dangerous and undesirable jobs, got support from OpenAI and other large names in AI, such as NVIDIA, Microsoft, and Jeff Bezos’ venture fund.

The Sunnyvale, California-based company announced on Thursday that it raised $675 million in Series B funding at a $2.6 billion valuation with investments from Microsoft, OpenAI Startup Fund, NVIDIA, Jeff Bezos (through Bezos Expeditions), Parkway Venture Capital, Intel Capital, Align Ventures, and ARK Invest.

Focused on deploying humanoid robots to assist people with real-world applications addressing labor shortages, Figure recently announced its first commercial agreement with BMW Manufacturing to bring humanoids into automotive production.

The Figure team, made up of top AI robotics experts from Boston Dynamics, Tesla, Google DeepMind, and Archer Aviation, has made remarkable progress in the past few months in the key areas of AI, robot development, robot testing, and commercialization. Founded 21 months ago, Figure currently has a team of 80 employees and is led by serial entrepreneur Brett Adcock.

The new capital will be used to accelerate the timeline for humanoid commercial deployment as AI training, robot manufacturing, and expanding engineering headcount will be scaled up.

The collaboration with OpenAI will help to accelerate “Figure’s commercial timeline by enhancing the capabilities of humanoid robots to process and reason from language,” stated the company.

Peter Welinder, VP of Product and Partnerships at OpenAI, said: “We’ve always planned to come back to robotics and we see a path with Figure to explore what humanoid robots can achieve when powered by highly capable multimodal models. We’re blown away by Figure’s progress to date and we look forward to working together to open up new possibilities for how robots can help in everyday life.”

Figure will use Microsoft Azure for AI infrastructure, training, and storage.

To date, Figure AI has developed a general-purpose robot, called Figure 01, that looks and moves like a human. The company sees its robots being put to use in manufacturing, shipping and logistics, warehousing, and retail, where labor shortages are the most severe.

Earlier this week, the company released a video showing Figure 01 in action (see below). The robot, attached to a tether, walks on two legs, and uses its five-fingered hands to pick up a plastic crate, then walks several more steps before placing the box on a conveyor belt.

Figure’s ultimate aim is for Figure 01 to be able to perform “everyday tasks autonomously.” The company says getting there will require it to develop more robust AI systems.

There is a crowded field of companies vying to make humanoid robots a reality, although the market is nascent. Amazon-backed Agility Robotics plans to open a factory that can produce up to 10,000 of its bipedal Digit robots per year.

Tesla also trying to build a humanoid robot, called Optimus, while robotics company Boston Dynamics has developed several models. Norwegian humanoid robot startup 1X Technologies recently raised $100 million with backing from OpenAI.