AI Startup Intuition Robotics Closes $36M Funding Round
Israeli artificial intelligence startup Intuition Robotics has raised $36 million in a Series B funding round led by SPARX Group and OurCrowd. Intuition plans to apply the funding to its work, improving how digital companions understand and anticipate people’s needs.
Intuitive Artificial Intelligence
Intuition Robotics is best-known for creating ElliQ, a digital companion robot built to improve the lives of older people. The Q AI inside the device acts as a voice assistant capable of connecting calls and messages to the user’s family and friends, providing news and music, and making suggestions for healthy activities like going for a walk. ElliQ is broadly similar to a smart speaker built by Amazon or Google but is supposed to be more empathetic and proactive than is typical. That’s the intuition element in the company’s name.
ElliQ launched in 2017 and during the last year spent more than 10,000 days in the homes of elderly Americans as part of a large pilot study. Intuition has also been exploring other verticals, such as automotive AI, since then. The results have been successful enough to convince investors to be part of the latest funding round, which more than doubles the total raised by Intuition to $58 million. Along with the Japan-based SPARX Group and fellow Israeli investment platform OurCrowd, investors in this funding round included Sompo Holdings, iRobot, Union Tech Ventures, and Bloomberg Beta. Toyota AI Ventures, which made Intuition one of their first investments back in 2017, participated as well. The four-year-old company has grown to 85 people working in Tel Aviv, San Francisco, and Athens, Greece.
“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,” Intuition Robotics CEO Dor Skuler said in a statement. “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.”
Proactive Digital Companions
The year-long study of ElliQ use in the U.S. found that the owners, mostly between 80 and 90 years of age, had an average of eight interactions every day. Two or more of those conversations were started by the device, a marked difference from most voice assistants, but very consistent with a growing trend in proactive AI for older people. Studies have shown that even standard voice assistants can reduce loneliness in older people and Intuition is not alone in seeing a market for their kind of AI. For instance, LifePod created a proactive virtual caregiver in a proprietary smart display and partnered last year with the Massachusetts-based Commonwealth Care Alliance to bring its device to more than 500 CCA members. There’s also the voice-activated robotic companion named Pria created by Pillo Health and Stanley Black & Decker. Pria combines a voice assistant with a pill dispenser.
The same goes for cars. SRI International recently debuted an artificial intelligence platform for cars that can detect and respond to the emotional state of drivers. The AI not only determines the driver’s mood, but it can also preemptively try to help by suggesting a driver pull over and rest if they appear tired or offering a scenic route to a driver who seems sad. Toyota, whose AI fund is investing in Intuition, installed SRI’s creation into its LQ concept car.