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OpenAI, NVIDIA, Microsoft invest in Figure AI’s $675M round to develop next-gen AI models for humanoids

Figure AI
Picture credits: Figure AI

The field of robotics is advancing rapidly, with humanoid robots leading the way. Notable companies like Boston Dynamics and Tesla have been achieving remarkable progress in the realm of humanoid robotics.

In a recent development, the California-based headquarters of the Norwegian startup 1X Technologies, supported by OpenAI, secured $100 million in funding for the development of its second-generation android robot, NEO.

Now, California-based Figure, an AI robotics company developing general-purpose humanoid robots, has raised $675 million in Series B funding. The round witnessed contributions from Microsoft, OpenAI Startup Fund, NVIDIA, Jeff Bezos (through Bezos Expeditions), Parkway Venture Capital, Intel Capital, Align Ventures, and ARK Invest. 

The investment takes the valuation of Figure AI to $2.6 billion. The fresh funds will accelerate Figure’s timeline for humanoid commercial deployment.

Next-gen AI models for humanoid robots

In addition to the funding, Figure and OpenAI have entered into a collaboration agreement to develop next-gen AI models for humanoid robots, combining OpenAI’s research with Figure’s deep understanding of robotics hardware and software. The collaboration aims to help accelerate its commercial timeline by enhancing the capabilities of humanoid robots to process and reason from language. It will also use Microsoft’s Azure cloud services for AI infrastructure, training and storage. 

Previously, Figure AI joined hands with BMW to deploy its robots for automotive manufacturing where they would be used to automate difficult, unsafe, or tedious tasks.

General purpose humanoid in action

Founded in 2022 by Brett Adcock, Figure has developed a general-purpose robot dubbed Figure 01, which resembles a human and moves like one. As per the company, this robot can be used in manufacturing, shipping and logistics, warehousing, and retail industries that face the brunt of severe labour shortages. 

Earlier this week, the company released a video showing Figure 01 in action. The video shows the robot attached to a tether walking on two legs, and using its hands to pick up a plastic crate, and placing the box on a conveyor belt after walking some more steps. 

“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 we look forward to working together to open up new possibilities for how robots can help in everyday life,” said Peter Welinder, VP of Product and Partnerships at OpenAI.

“We are excited to collaborate with Figure and work towards accelerating AI breakthroughs. Through our work together, Figure will have access to Microsoft’s AI infrastructure and services to support the deployment of humanoid robots to assist people with real world applications,” said Jon Tinter, Corporate Vice President of Business Development at Microsoft.

“Our vision at Figure is to bring humanoid robots into commercial operations as soon as possible. This investment, combined with our partnership with OpenAI and Microsoft, ensures that we are well-prepared to bring embodied AI into the world to make a transformative impact on humanity,” said Brett Adcock, Founder and CEO of Figure. “AI and robotics are the future, and I am grateful to have the support of investors and partners who believe in being at the forefront.”

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