This startup is building robots to replace human labour, gets support of OpenAI, Jeff Bezos, Nvidia & others

Founded in 2022, Figure AI is a California-based robotics startup that builds and deploys humanoid robots for general human purposes. The company’s founding idea was to address labour shortages and assist people with real-world applications. 

In January 2024, the California-based company collaborated with BMW. Recently, they released a video showcasing a general-purpose robot named Figure 01. The robot walks like a human and is tethered to a cord. In the video, the robot uses its five-fingered hands to pick up a plastic crate and place it on a conveyor belt.

Last year, Figure CEO Brett Adcock told the Associated Press that a futuristic humanoid world is not far away.

If we can just get humanoids to do work that humans are not wanting to do because there’s a shortfall of humans, we can sell millions of humanoids, billions maybe,” Figure CEO Adcock explained.

The video garnered huge attention, and now Figure has support from OpenAI and other large names in AI, such as NVIDIA, Microsoft, and Jeff Bezos’ venture fund.

The company announced on Thursday that it has secured $675 million in Series B funding at a valuation of $2.6 billion. The investment was made by a consortium of investors, including Microsoft, OpenAI Startup Fund, NVIDIA, Jeff Bezos (through Bezos Expeditions), Parkway Venture Capital, Intel Capital, Align Ventures, and ARK Invest.

The new capital is expected to accelerate the timeline for deployment of AI training of these humanoid robots by leveraging top AI robotics experts from investors like Tesla and Google DeepMind and using Microsoft Azure for AI infrastructure. 

The company has already made significant progress in AI, robot development, testing, and commercialization in the past few months.

The company stated that the OpenAI collaboration will help to accelerate Figure’s commercial timeline. 

“We’ve always planned to come back to robotics, and we see a path with Figure to explore what humanoid robots can achieve when powered by highly capable multimodal models. We’re blown away by Figure’s progress to date and look forward to working together to open up new possibilities for how robots can help in everyday life,” said Peter Welinder, VP at OpenAI.

“They are awkward”: Robotics experts 

Robotics experts believe the comparison of Figure AI humanoids with humans is ludicrous since they don’t look like them.

Contrarily, they believe that humanoids resemble more to animals than humans.

Toronto VC firm McRock Capital’s Whitney Rockley mocked Figure’s humanoids.

“…I think that the groups that are backing a lot of humanoid solutions right now, they’re in there for the long haul, which is great because you need that, but it’s going to take decades upon decades,” said Whitney.

Ushering into the Age of Humanoid Robots

The company sees itself as leading the robotics industry by deploying its humanoid robots to curb labour shortages.

Although Figure’s ultimate aim is for Figure 01 to be able to perform “everyday tasks autonomously.” 

Its competitors include Amazon-backed Agility Robotics, Tesla’s humanoid robot Optimus, and Boston Dynamics’s several models.

Also, the Norwegian humanoid robot startup 1X Technologies has recently raised $100 million with backing from OpenAI.