Israeli social companion robot ElliQ gets added funding boost

Intuition Robotics raises $36 million from investors as startup looks to expand platform to cars, appliances, education and toys

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Intuition Robotics' AI-based robot ElliQ (Courtesy)
Intuition Robotics' AI-based robot ElliQ (Courtesy)

Intuition Robotics, the developer of ElliQ, a social companion robot for elderly people, said Thursday it has raised $36 million in Series B funding co-led by the Asia-based asset management firm SPARX Group, and Jerusalem’s OurCrowd.

The latest funding round brings the company’s total funding to $58 million, the startup said in a statement.

Additional investors in the B round include Toyota AI Ventures, Sompo Holdings, iRobot, Union Tech Ventures, Happiness Capital, Samsung Next, Capital Point and Bloomberg Beta.

ElliQ is an artificial intelligence-based robot companion that aims to keep older adults active and engaged with family members by helping make technology use easier. The robot, named after a Norse goddess, is designed to learn an owner’s personality and preferences, and uses machine learning and natural language processing to suggest things like taking a walk or Skyping a grandchild.

The startup will use the newly raised funds to further develop its technology and its cognitive AI capabilities and tools, and plans to expand the reach of its digital companion platform to other sectors as well, including automotive, home robots, education, home appliances, hospitality and toys, the firm said.

Intuition Robotics is already collaborating with automotive customers such as Toyota Research Institute (TRI) in a bid to “revolutionize” the car-user experience by creating a human machine interface (HMI) in the car — providing automakers the opportunity to become early adopters of digital companion agent technology, the statement said.

“This investment will fuel the evolution of agents from utilitarian digital assistants to full-fledged digital companions that are at our side, anticipating our needs and seamlessly, proactively improving our lives by helping us achieve certain outcomes,” said Dor Skuler, CEO and co-founder of Intuition Robotics. “Our cognitive AI technology has the potential to transform the way people and machines interact through empathetic relationships built on trust, exhibiting highly personalized and delightful experiences that amplify our customers’ brands.”

“Intuition Robotics is creating disruptive technology that will inspire companies to re-imagine how machines might amplify the human experience,” said Jim Adler, founding managing partner at Toyota AI Ventures, who will join the company’s board of directors.

Over the last 12 months, ElliQ has spent over 10,000 days in older adults’ homes in the US, the statement said.

A majority of users are 80 to 90 years old, and have each spent at least 90 consecutive days with ElliQ. The company observed “a surprising sense of attachment towards ElliQ.” The statement said.

Older adults refer to ElliQ as an entity that is almost lifelike rather than a device. ElliQ engages them proactively in activities and conversation to promote their well being. Currently, ElliQ users participate in an average of eight interactions per day, at least two of which are actions initiated proactively by ElliQ, totaling six minutes of net interaction (excluding consumption of media and content) per day, the statement said.

Intuition Robotics currently employs 85 people with offices in Israel, San Francisco and Greece.

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