Intuition Robotics raises $ 36 million for its empathetic digital companion

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Intuition robotics, The company, best known for its ElliQ robot, a digital companion for the elderly, announced today that it has collected a $ 36 million Series B round led by SPARX Group and OurCrowd Has. Toyota AI Ventures, Sompo Holdings, iRobot, Union Tech Ventures, Happiness Capital, Samsung Next, Capital Point and Bloomberg Beta also participated in this round. This brings the total funding of the company, which was founded in 2016, to $ 58 million.

As the company, which sees it as its mission to build digital assistants that can create emotional connections between humans and machines, announced today, it is working with the Toyota Research Institute to incorporate its technology into the automaker's LQ concept integrate. Toyota previously said it wanted to bring a sensitive AI assistant to the LQ that could connect the driver and the car. Intuition Robotics' Q platform supports this assistant, which Toyota calls "Yui".

Intuition Robotics CEO and co-founder Dor Skuler

Dor Skuler, CEO and co-founder of Intuition Robotics, tells me that the company has collected data about ElliQ over the past two years. The company spent more than 10,000 days in the homes of former users to collect data. The youngest of these users was 78 and the oldest was 97.

On average, users interacted with ElliQ eight times a day and spent about six minutes on these interactions. When ElliQ made proactive suggestions, users accepted about half of them.

"We believe that we have been able to demonstrate that it can create a lasting relationship between people and machines that actually affects people's feelings and behaviors," said Skuler. "That it can create empathy and trust – and anticipate the needs of users. And that is the true vision behind the company for us."

Intuition Robotics is most closely associated with ElliQ, but this is just one area the company focuses on. The other is the automotive industry – and, as Skuler emphasized, focus as a small startup is key, although there are some other obvious industries that he could put himself in.

In the car, the sensitive AI assistant adapts to the individual user and, for example, gives personalized suggestions for trying out new functions in the car or suggests that you open the window and bring fresh air into the car when you feel tired. As Skuler emphasized, the car is a great environment for a digital assistant as it already has many built-in sensors.

“The agent receives the data feed, creates the context, looks at the goals and answers three questions: Should I be proactive? What activity should I promote? And which version should be the most effective? And then it controls the results, ”said Skuler. This is the same process in the car as in ElliQ – and in fact the same code runs in both.

The intuition team decided that it needed to develop special tools and a new language so that designers – not programmers – could create the outlines of these interactions for the platform so that third parties could create these interactions.

In contrast to ElliQ, the assistant doesn't move in the car, of course. In the example of Toyota, the car uses lights and a small screen to allow additional interactions with the driver. As Skuler also told me, the company is already working with another automotive company to provide its Q platform for more cars, even though it was unwilling to disclose that second automotive partner.

"Intuition Robotics is developing disruptive technologies that inspire companies to re-imagine how machines could improve the human experience," said Jim Adler, founding director of Toyota AI Ventures, who will also join the company's board of directors.

The Intuition Robotics team has doubled over the past year and the company currently has 85 employees, most of whom are engineers. The company has offices in Israel and San Francisco.

Not surprisingly, plans for the new funding focus on expanding the assistant's capabilities. "We are the only company in the world that can create these context-based, non-linear, personalized interactions that we call digital companions," said Skuler. “We assume that people will do similar things. Its a lot to do. […] Much of the work is to improve our research activities and improve the tools and performance of the runtime engine for the agent. “He also told me that the team continues to collect data through ElliQ to prove that it improves the quality of its users' lives. In addition, the company will of course also continue to expand its work around cars.

"We cracked something nobody cracked before," said Skuler. "And now we're about to take value out of it. And it's going to be hard work because this isn't an app. It's really hard work, but we want to capture that value."