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Touchlab, a UK startup with the goal to give robots a human touch, brought in more than $4.5 million (£3.5 million) in funding. The company, which is part of EIT Digital’s Innovation Factory, is developing a low-profile tactile sensing skin that can be wrapped around a robot.
Octopus Ventures, a European venture firm that invests in early-stage companies, led the funding round. Creator Fund and Techstart Ventures also participated.
“Touchlab has made truly pioneering advances with its technology in tactile sensing,” Akriti Dokania, investor at Octopus Ventures, said. “Electronic skin opens a world of new opportunities and applications in robotics, making it an extremely exciting time for the industry. Touchlab has a huge vision for the business, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be supporting them on this journey.”
Touchlab’s electronic skin is thinner than human skin, and can withstand extreme environments, like extremely high and low temperatures and acid. The skin can be applied to existing robots, and used in conjunction with tele-operated avatars, allowing humans to remotely operate in hazardous settings.
The electronic skin can also help robots to handle delicate objects. Typically, robots lack the tacting sensing and dexterity to handle delicate things, like fruits and vegetables, without breaking them.
“I greatly look forward to working with EIT Digital to commercialize our tactile avatar telerobot in hospitals across Europe,” Zaki Hussein, CEO of Touchlab, said. “We aim to break the chain of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) without hindering the human interaction between clinicians and patients – a problem to which there is no existing solution. This will significantly reduce complications due to deadly pathogens, from COVID to MRSA.”
EIT Digital is a knowledge and innovation community of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, it was co-founded by the European Union. Touchlab was founded in 2018 by Zaki Hussein, the current CEO.