Robust.AI, which has been developing “the world’s first industrial-grade cognitive engine for robots,” announced today the close of a $15 million Series A investment round. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup said its approach to artificial intelligence is innovative and will enable robots to operate better in human-centric environments.
Leading scientists and technologists founded Robust.AI in 2019. Historically, robots have largely been confined to highly predictable environments, said the company. It aims to change that by creating a new cognitively driven AI platform that gives robots the problem-solving capabilities they need to work alongside humans in dynamic, open-ended environments, vastly increasing their potential in complex public spaces.
Tech luminaries band together for new AI
Robust.AI was founded by a team of serial entrepreneurs and leaders in robotics and AI:
- CEO Gary Marcus, Ph.D., was previously co-founder and CEO of Geometric Intelligence, which was acquired by Uber Technologies. He is also the bestselling author of five books, including Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust, and is professor emeritus of psychology and neural science at New York University.
- Chief Technology Officer Rodney Brooks, Ph.D., was previously co-founder of iRobot and Rethink Robotics; co-inventor of Roomba, the best-selling consumer robot of all time; and former director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology‘s Computer Science and AI Laboratory (MIT CSAIL). Brooks recently delivered a keynote as part of RoboBusiness Direct (available on demand).
- Chief Science Officer Mohamed Amer, Ph.D., is former senior technical manager at the Center for Vision Technologies, SRI International, where he led AI and machine learning projects in machine common sense, communicating with computers, and explainable AI.
- Chief Operating Officer Anthony Jules, is former CTO of Formant.io, an intelligence platform for robot fleets; senior product manager at GoogleX, and COO and vice president of product at Redwood Robotics (acquired by Google).
- Co-founder Henrik Christensen is the Qualcomm Chancellor’s Chair of Robot Systems and a professor of computer science at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). He is the director of UCSD’s Contextual Robotics Institute and is also co-founder of ROBO Global ETF, which has managed $3.5 billion in robotics investments. In addition, he is co-author of the “Roadmap for U.S. Robotics,” which was recently updated.
The team’s extensive experience in robotics and AI has led it to build a solution that it said could transform the nascent robotics industry into a more robust ecosystem of solutions. Robust.AI is pioneering a powerful software stack for building and rapidly deploying semantically aware robots that will widen the variety of tasks they can do. This will help companies launch more robust robots faster, with more layers of safety, in the real world, across a wide range of industries, said Robust.AI.
“The deep-learning, heavy AI approach that many favor today often fails in the real world; in dynamic environments that change rapidly, current-generation robots can easily get confused, which is why we are still a long way from Rosie the Robot,” stated Marcus. “At Robust, we want to grow the entire robotics industry, by overhauling the software stack for robotics, injecting cognition and common sense into the pipeline, allowing robots to operate in complex environments that were previously out of reach.
“Finding market fit is as important in robots and AI systems as any other product,” said Brooks. “We are building something we believe most robotics companies will find irresistible, taking solutions from single-purpose tools that today function in defined environments to highly useful systems that can work within our world and all its intricacies.”
“The remarkable advancements in robotics hardware will be further advanced with our software,” said Jules. “ Through deep partnerships with industry leaders, Robust.AI will build a transformative business where robots will work more successfully in more applications than ever before.”
Robust.AI adds board member
The company’s Series A round brings its total funding to-date to $22.5 million. JAZZ Venture Partners led the round and was joined by previous investors Playground Global, Liquid2, Fontinalis, Jaan Tallin, and Mark Leslie. Angel investors include Esther Dyson, Steve Blank, and Tim O’Reilly.
Robusts.AI, which The Robot Report named one of “10 robotics startups to watch in 2020,” said it plans to use the funding to expand platform development and initial partnerships and is hiring.
John Spinale, managing partner at JAZZ Venture Partners, will join Robust.AI’s board of directors. “It’s refreshing to be working with such a stellar team who are taking a first principles approach to solving the key obstacles to automation and scalability in some of our most important industries,” he said.
“As an investor with a focus on deep technology, I firmly believe in building toward a future where robots can think and reason autonomously in dynamic and unstructured environments,” said Peter Barrett, partner at Playground Global. “There is no better team in the world to solve this challenging problem than the one assembled by Robust.AI.”