Elementary Robotics raises $3.6 million for intelligent robot assistants

There’s a lot of money in robotics. The industrial machines market is forecast to be worth $41.23 billion by 2020, according to Grand View Research, with startups like GreyOrange and RightHand leading the charge. But they’re not the only game in town.

Los Angeles’ Elementary Robotics today announced that it has raised $3.6 million in seed financing. The funding was led by Fika Ventures and Fathom Capital, with participation from a bevy of new investors, including Toyota AI Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, Riot.vc, Osage University Partners, and Stage Venture Partners. It’s the company’s second round, following a pre-seed investment in October 2017. As part of the round, Fika’s Eva Ho will join the company’s board, sitting alongside Arye Barnehama, Elementary’s cofounder and CEO, and Idealab’s Bill Gross.

Barnehama — who previously built and sold wearable technology company Melon to Daqri, an industrial AR startup that has gone on to raise $275 million and that led Daqri’s hardware and design department — wasn’t willing to reveal much about Elementary Robotics’ product lineup just yet. But he believes that it’s positioned to become the “world leader” in next-generation assistive robotics, in part because of a proprietary vision stack with a lower bill of materials than many competing systems.

“[Our autonomous machines] will be lower-cost, human-safe, and driven by software innovations, such as machine learning, AI, and computer vision,” he said.

The plan is to offer a “full stack” robotic solution, from motor controls to an API that “enables machine learning from the ground up.” Barnehama says the company’s robots can learn to “easily” perform repetitive tasks and leverage a combination of RGB cameras, depth sensors, and AI to “perceive the world,” allowing them to learn from processes they observe.

Elementary Robotics certainly has the talent to deliver on that vision. It counts graduates and employees from JPL, Caltech, Qualcomm, and ArtCenter among its staff, all of whom are working on “cutting-edge” robotic systems that will one day augment human workers by performing a range of complex chores.

“We launched the first call with TRI’s mobile manipulation team to give talented entrepreneurs a nudge in both direction and capital to make assistive robots more useful, safe, and affordable,” Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, said in a statement. “Arye and the Elementary Robotics team share our commitment to improving the quality of human life through AI and robotics. They have the talent, expertise, and vision to deliver on that commitment.”

With any luck, Elementary Robotics will succeed where Bosch’s shuttered robot spinoff Mayfield Robotics and Honda’s canceled Asimo program failed — and perhaps capture some of the $900 million venture capital committed to industrial and personal robotics startups two years ago.

Sign up for Funding Daily: Get the latest news in your inbox every weekday.