Voice-Controlled Personal Robot Maker temi Closes $15M Funding Round
temi, creator of an eponymous voice-activated mobile robot, has raised $15 million in a Series B funding round led by Chinese venture capital giant Joy Capital along with former Alibaba CTO John Wu. The company plans to apply the new funding toward boosting its marketing and sales a little over a year after beginning to sell the robot.
Personal Robot for Homes and Offices
The wheeled robotic personal assistant known as temi looks like a tablet computer on a scooter at first glance. The AI-powered robot has a small shelf for personal objects and can follow owners around the home if desired. The voice assistant built into the robot performs like a smart display and can make video phone calls, play music and videos, and control smart home devices, among other features. The voice assistant was built specifically for temi, but it can handle most Android apps through the associated smartphone app.
The company spun out of Maryland-based Roboteam in 2016. Roboteam was founded by Israeli entrepreneurs to work on military robots, but temi co-founders Yossi Wolf and Gal Goren decided to explore the personal robot space instead. The company is now spread across the globe. The headquarters are in New York City, while its R&D lab is in Tel Aviv, Israel, and its business and manufacturing plant are in Shenzhen, China. temi has now raised about $36 million after a $21 million round at the end of 2018, led by John Wu. The robot is available for $2,000 and is sold on Amazon and in some retail stores in the U.S. and Asia. Along with personal use at home, temi robots are bought for offices and stores to handle communication and other tasks suited to a mobile voice assistant.
Caregiving and Coronavirus
One of the most popular uses for temi is in healthcare in hospitals and homes. Wolf explicitly cites thinking of how a personal robot could help his grandmother in the story of the company on its website. According to a report from Globes in Israel, temi’s technology plays a role in caring for victims of the coronavirus that is infecting a growing number of people. Doctors in Asia are using hundreds of robots placed in hospitals and nursing homes to speak with patients, deploy medicine, and check vital signs.
Though the coronavirus looms large in the news right now, temi is part of a growing trend of applying AI, voice technology, and robotics for healthcare. Irish startup CR Robotics just began expanding the distribution of its own voice-controlled robot to help care for older people at home. The cat-faced robot on wheels named Mylo shares a lot of similarities with temi, albeit with a focus on those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to go with its feline look. There are also fewer mobile tools for home healthcare like Pria, a voice-activated robotic companion with a smart display and pill dispenser and LifePod, a ‘proactive’ smart speaker whose voice assistant can begin conversations with its owner about health routines.
Recent studies by Project Zilver and Voice for Loneliness have demonstrated that voice assistants can be a real asset to older people, reducing loneliness and extending their ability to take care of themselves. While temi is not aimed solely at that market, the extent to which healthcare facilities are using the robots suggests temi will continue to be involved in that space. With $15 million in new capital, temi should have a lot of runway for growth in any direction the company chooses to pursue.