When many people think of household robots, they envision vacuum cleaners, laundry-folding robots, or maybe humanoid models. However, robotic furniture could be coming sooner than two out of three of them. Jim Adler, managing director at Toyota AI Ventures, today welcomed Bumblebee Spaces to Toyota AI Ventures’ portfolio.
While dealing with cramped urban living, Sankarshan Murthy came up with the idea for an intelligent “space and stuff” system using robotics and artificial intelligence to optimize space. Murthy, who had previously worked at Apple and Tesla Motors, applied his experience to founding San Francisco-based Bumblebee Spaces in 2017.
Adler cited a Zillow finding that the median rent in the U.S. requires 28.4% of the median income, with residents of 16 cities such as New York or Los Angeles spending 38% and 47%, respectively. “It’s exciting to see a company making every cubic foot count,” he said.
Toyota AI Ventures, which recently invested part of its second $100 million fund in Cartica AI and Moodify, joined Bumblee’s Series A round, which was led by NTT Venture Capital. Other investors included Valor Equity Partners, Sound Ventures, and Norwest Venture Partners.
Busy like a Bumblebee, an ‘AI butler’
“Bumblebee’s system includes a modular framework that can raise and lower a bed, closet, or multiple storage units from the ceiling using voice commands or Bumblebee’s mobile app,” wrote Adler. “To make home organization smarter, Bumblebee’s platform also uses manual search, object recognition, and deep learning to identify and understand items that users’ own. Think of it as an ‘AI butler’ that can help you find things like an umbrella, or your wallet — a feature anyone late to an appointment or meeting would be grateful for.”
The company can install Bumblebee’s system in existing residences in just a few hours, he added.
Bumblebee Spaces completed a seed funding round of $4.7 million in October, according to Pitchbook. It isn’t the only company working on robotic furniture. MIT spinout and MassRobotics resident Ori Living has partnered with Ikea, and it raised $20 million in Series B funding in September.
Bumblebee is hiring, noted Adler, who added that it is part of the Toyota AI Ventures Talent network.