Vancouver-based Sanctuary AI has raised $75.5 million CAD ($58.5 million USD) in what it described as an oversubscribed Series A round.
The backing comes from a notable list of institutional and corporate investors, including Bell, Evok Innovations, Export Development Canada, automotive leader Magna, SE Health, Verizon Ventures, and Workday Ventures.
Anousheh Ansari, the first female private space explorer, and Chris Hadfield, former astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, have joined Sanctuary’s advisory board.
“One thing is clear: many labour-related challenges are outside the scope of current specialized AI and robotics technology.”
– Geordie Rose
Launched in 2018, Sanctuary’s mission is to create the world’s first human-like intelligence in general-purpose robots designed to help people work more safely, efficiently, and sustainably. The company also plans to leverage its technology to “explore, settle, and prosper in outer space.”
The startup was created by D-Wave founder Geordie Rose who serves as Sanctuary’s CEO. Rose is also the co-founder of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) company Kindred. Sanctuary’s founding team also includes a group of Kindred team members and founders Suzanne Gildert, Olivia Norton, and Creative Destruction Lab’s Ajay Agrawal, who sits on Sanctuary’s board of directors.
Sanctuary’s general-purpose robots are similar to a person in size and shape. The robot’s cognitive architecture is also designed to mimic the different subsystems in a person’s brain. According to the company, this approach defines the scope of the work to something that can be broken down into manageable pieces.
“With unfilled vacancies, workplace safety considerations, increasing employee turnover, worldwide aging populations, and declining workplace participation, one thing is clear: many labour-related challenges are outside the scope of current specialized AI and robotics technology,” said Rose.
According to the AI company, the investors that participated in its most recent investment round reflect applications for Sanctuary’s technology in multiple industries. Sanctuary also said in its blog post that it originally approached the organizations as potential customers.
“I see this as an indication that they believe in the strategic power of the technology that we’re building and want to play an active role in advancing the use of AI and robotics across a wide range of industry applications,” Sanctuary said.
According to Crunchbase, Sanctuary has raised two previous, undisclosed, seed rounds with Evok participating in a 2020 round. BetaKit has reached out to Sanctuary to confirm its total funding to date.
While Sanctuary’s founders bring expertise and it has secured the backing of notable investors, some experts in the AI space have questioned the technology and characterized the startup’s vision as far-fetched.
Feature image courtesy of Sanctuary AI