Sanctuary AI gets new funding to make robots more human

 Sanctuary AI gets new funding to make robots more human

In the photo: Olivia Norton with “Phoenix” robot. Image courtesy: Sanctuary AI

Vancouver-based Sanctuary AI has raised strategic funding from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund and InBC Investment Corp (InBC). The company did not share the quantum of investment, but announced that its total funding till date has reached CA$140M now. It has earlier raised capital from Accenture, Bell, Export Development Canada, Evok Innovations, Magna, SE Health, Verizon, and Workday Ventures.

Sanctuary AI’s stated goal is to develop the first general-purpose robots with intelligence comparable to that of a human. With that, the company hopes to improve worker safety, productivity, and sustainability. Additionally, it believes that it can also help address the labor shortage that many businesses are currently experiencing.

For decades, robots have coexisted with humans in the workplace, but they have usually been highly specialized. For instance, a bot on an automobile assembly line would only do one task repeatedly. Downside to that is that to automate numerous tasks, a company needs several (usually expensive) robots. Enter general-purpose robots — robots with several functions — that can automate any of several urgent tasks.

Also read: Promise Robotics secures Series A funding to tackle the big housing gap

Sanctuary AI building general-purpose robots with human-like intelligence

Sanctuary AI is one of the companies trying to successfully build and commercialize a general-purpose robot. It also debuted its sixth-generation robot, an AI-driven humanoid called “Phoenix,” in May last year. The Canadian government also contributed CA$30M to it through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) in November 2022.

Olivia Norton (Co-founder, CTO & CPO) founded the company in 2018. The company states that members of the team have also founded D-Wave, Kindred, and Creative Destruction Lab. In the announcement, Norton mentioned that the company viewed AI in the physical world as the next big frontier. She added that aging populations, declining birth rates, and shifting perspectives on work are key trends that’ll drive automation. And that the productivity of provinces and countries will be significantly impacted by intelligent embodied systems, or general purpose robots. She also expressed confidence that Canada had a chance to lead the word in this industry.

Michelle Scarborough, Managing Partner at Thrive, said that they were proud of funding several innovative women-led Canadian startups. She added that they were pleased to assist the Sanctuary AI team in being an industry disruptor. Leah Nguyen, Chief Investment Officer at InBC, shared her enthusiasm about the growth the company could bring to British Columbia. It’s worth noting that The British Columbian government established InBC as a strategic investment fund with the goal of advancing BC.

Also read: BDC launches a new CA$50M early-stage fund

Ankur S

Ankur is a contributing writer for The Tech Factor based in Toronto. He is a seasoned technology & business leader, having worked as a tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist and management consultant for nearly two decades. His experience includes working and investing in the Canadian, US and Indian startup ecosystems.

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