Exclusive | Disney Bets on Furhat: The Social Robotics Company Closes $2.5M
Stockholm, Sweden-based Furhat Robotics has raised $2.5 million in its first funding, a seed round from prominent European investors Balderton Capital and LocalGlobe.
Furhat is developing a new kind of robot it calls a ‘Social Robot’ which is being built on a platform that is optimized for socially-aware interactions with people.
Started by four researchers out of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Furhat is headed by CEO Samer Al Moubayed (LinkedIn), who was previously a postdoctoral researcher at Disney Research.
What is most striking about the robotic technology is the human-like facial projection system, as shown in the video below.
Furhat was founded in 2014 and currently has 13 employees, yet it has already made significant partnership progress, with development under way at major multinationals such as Disney, Honda, KPMG, Deutsche Telekom, and Intel.
In an exclusive interview with NewsCenter.io, CEO Moubayed shared Furhat’s mission and business model, stating “We want to build a new type of computer interface, to enable people to engage with it emotionally and socially like they engage with each other. There are potentially thousands of different types of communication.”
He added that Furhat’s business model is similar to that of the ‘smartphone and app store.’ “We’re building this as a platform and we want to open it up for developers to build applications on top of it.”
According to Moubayed, an enterprising developer could conceivably purchase the robotic hardware and SDK for $15,000 and connect it to an existing system such as Amazon’s Alexa. The result would be an animatronic robot that says what Alexa would say, with the potential for even more social awareness.
This nascent industry however is not without others building platforms with robotic potential. Moubayed cited SoftBank Robotics ‘doing interesting things’ with their consumer-orientated robots, and Massachusetts-based Jibo, which has raised over $70 million in VC funding but has yet to ship a unit.
It is still early days, but exciting times for startups like Furhat. As it deploys its new-found but comparatively small initial funding, the company is developing a new platform optimized for the enterprise with blue sky possibilities.