Spent some time at Figure’s offices in Sunnyvale on a recent visit to the South Bay. The company is currently in that semi-awkward phase where it’s ready to talk about what it’s working on – but only to a point. That means things like the process and plans are on the table, while actually showing the robot is not.
We got some renders when the company came out of stealth in March, but otherwise the Figure 01 robot hasn’t made it past its office walls. Now that I’ve seen a pre-working model, I can attest to the ambition of the entire project, but as I wrote in my long piece last week, the merits of this kind of work must be assessed at every step.
However, the company confirmed with TechCrunch that its assembled robot (bottom half + top half) has made its first move ahead of its one-year anniversary. “We believe this is the fastest timeline in the industry to date,” it notes.
This morning, the company announced a significant vote of confidence in the form of a $70 million Series A. The round is led by Parkway Venture Capital and includes Aliya Capital, Bold Ventures, Tamarack Global, FJ Labs and Till Reuter, the CEO of Industrial Arm maker, Kuka Robotics. It follows founder and CEO Brett Adcock’s $100 million self-funded startup capital to get things started.
“We are focused on investing in companies that are pioneers in AI technology, and we believe autonomous humanoid robots have the potential to revolutionize the labor economy,” said Parkway Venture’s Jesse Coors-Blankenship. Capital in a prepared statement. “We are impressed with the rapid progress Brett and Figure’s team of industry experts have made over the past year and are excited to be a financial partner providing resources to accelerate the commercialization of Figure 01.”
These are indeed grand rounds. There was a pre-pandemic moment when the rounds were explosive in the early stages, but economic factors have put many of them back on their feet. But robots are expensive. I mean, hardware is generally expensive, but robots are next level. This is especially true for (1) a relatively unproven form factor and (2) the idea of ”general purpose” systems.
There’s a reason you don’t read about purpose-built humanoids: there are much more efficient ways to build robots that do things really well. You start exploring something like a bipedal humanoid robot if you want a system that can do the things that a human can.
Figure is still quite young, having only celebrated its first birthday on May 20, but it has been aggressively hiring talent from places like Boston Dynamics, Tesla, Apple, and automakers. However, despite rapid iterations, we haven’t seen many timelines from the company so far.