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AI startup ‘Figure AI’ scores $675M from Bezos, Nvidia, and others to advance humanoid robots

Show me the money: A massive funding round in an AI startup signaled a surge in investor interest in humanoid robots in the wake of the ChatGPT frenzy. The company aims to spearhead a new wave of capable manufacturing robots with backing from Big Tech that could alleviate labor shortages and workplace safety issues.

Figure AI develops human-like robots powered by artificial intelligence. It raised around $675 million in a recent funding round, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Nvidia investing heavily. Bloomberg sources note that the massive capital injection boosted the startup’s value to roughly $2 billion pre-money.

The cash infusion comes from a who’s-who list of Big Tech firms and investors, including Amazon, Nvidia, Microsoft, Intel’s venture capital division, and Explore Investments – a venture firm owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Explore committed the highest figure, $100 million, while Microsoft and Amazon put in $95 million and $50 million, respectively. Nvidia matched Amazon’s $50 million. Intel forked over $25 million, and OpenAI chipped in an additional $5 million.

Other backers include prominent Asian electronics firms like LG Innotek and Samsung. Parkway Venture Capital and Align Ventures also contributed to the massive money pool. The investors will wire the money and formalize agreements on Monday, although the numbers could change a bit as they iron out the details. The investment interest comes after Figure announced a partnership with BMW last month to deploy humanoid robots in manufacturing roles at the automaker’s facilities.

Figure AI burst onto the scene last March with its Figure 01 robot, billed as a general-purpose humanoid robotic assistant suitable for various applications from factory work to household help. The robot moves and interacts like a human, thanks to its integrated AI software. The company sees the bot relieving human workers of dangerous, repetitive, and tedious tasks, enabling them to focus on jobs requiring intuition and talent. It could also alleviate widespread labor shortages in manufacturing while improving workplace safety.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Figure sought $500 million in capital with Microsoft and OpenAI as lead investors. The recent commitments from other high-profile backers enabled Figure to increase its funding target. The additional investment underscores rising enthusiasm for robotics startups incorporating AI, especially on the heels of ChatGPT’s viral adoption.

Figure AI is not alone in pushing humanoid robot assistants. Just last month, OpenAI-backed robotics firm 1X Technologies raised $100 million. Vancouver’s Sanctuary AI is also working on a humanoid robot dubbed Phoenix. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk touted his Optimus project as one of his most important initiatives currently in development.

The red-hot interest makes sense, given that recent AI industry breakthroughs allow for more advanced functionality in robotics applications. So far, Figure has shown off demos of the robot “dynamic walking” and making coffee (above). The startup could push its capabilities even further with its newfound war chest.

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