Startup Figure AI develops general-purpose humanoid robots.

Figure AI

Figure AI, a startup that works to build humanoid robots that can perform dangerous and undesirable tasks, just received a big vote of confidence from some of the biggest names in artificial intelligence.

The company said Thursday it raised $675 million at a $2.6 billion valuation from investors including Jeff Bezos, Nvidia, Microsoft and AmazonA $1 billion industrial innovation fund.

Founded in 2022, Figure AI has developed a general-purpose robot called Figure 01 that looks and moves like a human. The company sees its robots are used in manufacturing, delivery and logistics, warehousing and retail “where labor shortages are most severe,” although its machines are not intended for military or defense applications.

Earlier this week, the company released video shows Figure 01 in action. Attached to a belt, the robot walks on two legs and uses its five-fingered hands to pick up a plastic crate, then walks a few more steps before placing the box on a conveyor belt.

The ultimate goal of Figure 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.

Meanwhile, Figura is part of a crowded field of companies scrambling to make humanoid robots a reality. Amazon-backed Agility Robotics plans to open a factory that can produce up to 10,000 of its two-legged Digit robots a year. Tesla is also trying to create a humanoid robot called Optimus, while robot company Boston Dynamics has developed several models. Norwegian humanoid robot startup 1X Technologies recently raised $100 million with the backing of OpenAI.

The market is emerging. The analysts of Goldman Sachs expects the humanoid robot market to reach $38 billion by 2035 and predicts that more than 250,000 units could be shipped in 2030.

“We’re at an early stage right now where there’s a lot of interest in humanoids, and I think that’s going to continue for a while,” said Tom Anderson, co-founder and principal analyst at STIQ Ltd., which publishes research on robotics and retail technology. Anderson said there would need to be “a few step changes” before it could be rolled out widely.

As part of the deal announced Thursday, Figura said it is partnering with ChatGPT maker OpenAI to “develop next-generation AI models for humanoid robots.” It will also use Microsoft Azure cloud services for AI infrastructure, training and storage, Figura said.

Humanoid robots require expensive components such as actuators, motors and sensors to function. Goldman researchers say those costs are expected to decline in coming years, noting that they have already fallen to between $30,000 and $150,000 per unit, from a range of $50,000 to $250,000 per unit last year.

IntelThe venture capital fund was also part of the figure’s investment round alongside Cathie Wood’s Ark Invest, Align Ventures and existing investor Parkway Venture Capital.

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