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AI robotic arm to tackle labour shortages: Swiss startup mimic grabs $2.5M funding

mimic robots
Picture credits: mimic

Global labour shortages are currently rocking businesses across multiple sectors, and employers are struggling to find, hire and retain workers. On the other hand, Goldman Sachs estimates the global market for humanoid robots could reach $38 billion by 2035. Combining both these, mimic, an AI/robotics startup from Zurich, has come up with a robotic arm and humanoid hand combination that uses generative AI

First-of-its-kind AI-driven robot 

In the race to develop the first commercially available humanoid robot primarily concentrated in the US, mimic has closed a pre-seed round of $2.5 million. The round was led by early-stage Swiss investor Founderful, which invested in Isospec Analytics, together with participation from German-based fund, UK-based, which invested in UltiHash, and a lineup of angel investors.

The team at mimic will develop its robot and AI model in the coming months to prepare for its official product launch this year. 

Alex Stöckl, founding partner at Founderful, commented: “We were impressed by mimic’s technology and vision. We believe that the market for AI-driven robots is going to grow exponentially, and we will see these robots gain widespread adoption very soon”.

Idea behind mimic

Spinning out from the research university ETH Zurich, mimic was founded by researchers Elvis Nava, Stefan Weirich, Stephan-Daniel Gravert, and Benedek Forrai in 2024. The founding team was working at the intersection of robotics and AI under Professor Robert Katzschmann’s Soft Robotic Labs when they became increasingly convinced that the latest developments in large-scale generative AI models would upend a multitude of industries, beyond just language and image generation. 

The team set out to develop a foundation model for robotic manipulation and quickly realised how much value their idea held to revolutionise the way robotics fit into our everyday lives and economy. 

Robot to address labour shortage

As per the company, its solution will enable a robot with humanoid hands to understand and imitate any behaviour, simply by watching a human perform it. This deviates from the conventional robotic solutions and focuses on specific use cases. Since each use case requires expensive ad-hoc engineering and comprehensive pre-programmed movements, robots are only able to complete the narrowly specific task they are designed for. Most use cases are stationary and do not require a full humanoid robot with legs, so they have developed a robotic arm. 

mimic is developing robots with a unified, general-purpose approach to achieve a variety of tasks with a single robot design. 

mimic’s robots will be powered by a foundation AI model, being able to reason and understand the physical world. These robots can execute tasks with minimal demonstrations and without requiring expensive, complicated programming by engineers for each new task. They are designed for any industry employing workers in repetitive but hard-to-automate tasks involving complex motor skills. 

Already, the team has been approached by a wide range of initial customers, from supermarkets, industrial baking, and gastronomy to manufacturing, recycling, and pharmaceutical lab automation.

“Conventional  automation leaves a huge gap of tedious, low to medium volume manual labor tasks that often fall under the table because they are too complex or not economical to automate. For companies from retail to manufacturing, it becomes increasingly harder to find the right staff for these tasks. Taking AI-driven robotic manipulation to the next level, we can now address these challenges with unparalleled flexibility and ease of use”, said mimic co-founder Stefan Weirich.

“In the robotics space, adopting general-purpose AI techniques can solve a nearly infinite amount of real-world problems. This approach is so far only constrained by the limited availability of robot training data. We are changing that,” said mimic co-founder Elvis Nava.

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