Robotics startup Figure raises $675 million from Microsoft, Nvidia, OpenAI

FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with a displayed NVIDIA logo is placed on a computer motherboard in this illustration taken March 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) -Robotics startup Figure said on Thursday it raised $675 million in a funding round from investors including Nvidia, Microsoft and founder Jeff Bezos at a valuation of $2.6 billion.

Sunnyvale, California-based Figure also said it signed a collaboration with OpenAI to develop generative artificial intelligence for its humanoid robots.

The launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI has generated interest in AI, with companies investing million of dollars to cash in on the trend.

Other companies involved in the Figure funding include OpenAI Startup Fund, Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, Parkway Venture Capital, Intel Capital, Align Ventures and ARK Invest.

Brett Adcock, Figure's founder and CEO, said the company will use the funding to develop large language models for robotics, ramp up manufacturing and hire more people.

The startup will also move to Microsoft Azure for AI infrastructure and training, Adcock said.

The AI models Figure develops will be based on OpenAI's latest GPT models, and specifically trained on robotics actions data that Figure has collected so that its humanoid robots can talk with people, see things and perform physical tasks, according to Adcock.

"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," said Peter Welinder, vice president of product and partnerships at OpenAI.

Humanoid robots have raised renewed interest from investors as AI-powered software offers more possibilities of how robots interact and work with human. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk predicted a billion humanoid robots on Earth in the 2040s, as the electric carmaker released its latest humanoid Optimus Gen in development.

Bloomberg first reported last week about Figure raising funding and said that Bezos had committed $100 million through his firm Explore Investments LLC and Microsoft is investing $95 million, while Nvidia and an Amazon-affiliated fund are each providing $50 million.

Last month, Figure signed a partnership with BMW Manufacturing to deploy its humanoid robots in the car maker's facility in the United States.

Figure raised $70 million from investors led by Parkway Venture Capital in its first external round last year.

(Reporting by Harshita Mary Varghese in Bengaluru and Krystal Hu in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Niket Nishant; Editing by Maju Samuel and Will Dunham)

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