July 15, 2024


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1X Technologies, a Norwegian startup robotics startup backed by OpenAI, among others, today announced it has raised $100 million in its series B round of funding from a long list of other big names, including Samsung.

The investment comes from EQT Ventures with participation from Samsung NEXT, Nistad group and existing company backers Sandwater and Skagerak Capital. 1

X said it plans to use the capital to support its existing enterprise customers and bring its new bipedal android “NEO” into the market.

Ultimately, the company hopes that its humanoid robots will work alongside humans to benefit society and help meet the world’s growing labor demand.

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However, it is not going to be an easy ride, given that bipedal robots have been around for quite some time, including those from deep-pocketed players, and they are only getting better with new AI advancements

What 1X has on offer with AI robots?

Founded ten years ago by Bernt Øivind Børnich, 1X Technologies began as Halodi Robotics to build general-purpose robots to handle labor-intensive tasks.

Over the years, the company developed its tech, including the world’s highest torque torque-to-weight drive servo motor for mimicking soft, organic muscle movement, and started shipping to enterprise customers.

However, the big breakthrough came in 2022 when 1X partnered with OpenAI and began looking to AI models to add intelligence to its machines.

The company brought into use language and embodied learning models that allow the robot to understand what the user asks in natural language and perform that task — essentially serving as its mind — while learning over time.

Eve, the company’s wheeled enterprise-centric robot, has already been deployed with multiple organizations for industrial tasks such as moving equipment, opening doors and fulfilling orders while naturally moving through unstructured/structured space. The robot’s algorithm learned these tasks at the company’s studio in Norway.

“At The Studio in Moss, Norway, our androids train for practical tasks, general use and industry-specific behavior using embodied learning. Inspired by advancements in digital assistants and self-driving cars, 1X’s method for data collection diverges from traditional coding and predetermined algorithms. Using VR Teleop, 1X Operators guide the androids through diverse real-world scenarios, offering an intuitive understanding of the task’s difficulty and feasibility. When data is collected at scale, the android has learned a new skill. 

It’s less about set algorithms and more about practical learning for navigating the world that was built to fit you and me, or ‘the average human shape’,” the company noted in a December blog post.

The company is also developing Neo, a bipedal humanoid targeted towards consumer markets. It has been designed for everyday home assistance, offering support for domestic tasks like cleaning, organizing or running errands. 

Notably, while both robots operate autonomously by default, 1X is still holding on to the option of controlling them remotely, just in case they can’t handle a particular task, run into a dangerous zone or go full kamikaze.

Business growth

Today, 1X is building androids at a commercial scale, but the exact growth figures of the company remain unknown. Questions sent by VentureBeat also remained unanswered at the time of writing. The few customer names highlighted on the company’s website were Sunnass Hospital and Everon, which deployed about 250 androids for night guarding in the commercial buildings.

With this round, which takes 1X’s total capital raised to nearly $137 million, the company plans to build on its work to support existing enterprise customers as well as bring Neo into the consumer market. It also plans to scale its data collection and training strategy for embodied AI.

“The impact of androids joining our human workforce, on our terms will be transformative (to say the least). We’re convinced 1X with their NEO androids will play a crucial role in the pioneering steps towards the first forays of our technological and human future,” Ted Persson, partner at EQT Ventures, said in a statement.

Humanoids have been in development for quite some time, but the recent advancements in AI, particularly language models, have made their prospects even better. Multiple organizations today are experimenting with robots and humanoids, including Hyundai Motor Group’s Boston Dynamics and Elon Musk’s Tesla, which is developing an AI-enabled general-purpose humanoid called Optimus.

According to MarketsAndMarkets, the market for AI robots is expected to grow from $6.9 billion in 2021 to $35.3 billion in 2026, with a CAGR of nearly 39%.

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