Edinburgh robotics startup Touchlab has announced the successful raising of $4.8 million in seed funding.
The Scottish firm, which develops an electronic skin (e-skin) for robots, had its investment round led by Octopus Ventures, one of the EU’s largest early-stage investors.
Octopus Ventures also had additional participation from existing Touchlab investors, including Creator Fund and Techstart Ventures.
The investment will enable the Edinburgh robotics startup to further strengthen its commercial and tech teams to meet the growing demand for large-scale deployment of its e-skin technology.
Currently, the biggest barrier to mass robot adoption is an inherent inability to feel the world around them.
However, the startup, currently based at The Higgs Centre for Innovation, hopes to solve this by developing low-profile tactile sensing skin, which can be wrapped around robots to sense pressure, location, and direction in real-time.
The e-skin is thinner than human skin making it easily retrofittable without reducing the robot’s or gripper’s degrees of freedom.
Machines fitted with Touchlab’s e-skin can now roll pens, grasp soft objects, and even detect slips.
Commenting on the technology, Touchlab CEO and founder Dr Zaki Hussein said: “Touch is the final frontier for robot interaction and entry into physical environments – enabling true dexterity and safety.
“We have taken on this challenge by developing a ‘full-stack’ solution; retrofittable e-skin that gathers the data, software to make sense of it, and integration to ensure it works in demanding applications – from grocery grasping to telerobotics in extreme environments.”
Hussein added: “Octopus’ expertise propels us to achieve e-skin’s full potential and create a step-change in robotics.”
Unlike older sensor technologies, TouchLab’s e-skin can withstand a high load, sense direction in three dimensions, which is important for detecting slip.
Additionally, the skin can withstand extreme environments such as acid, high and low temperatures, and even radioactive environments, giving it unique ‘superhuman’ capabilities.
Mason Sinclair, investor at Octopus Ventures added: “Touchlab has made truly pioneering advances with its technology in tactile sensing.
“Electronic skin will open a world of new opportunities and applications in robotics, making it an extremely exciting time for the industry.”
Touchlab has already welcomed success with its innovate technology after being selected among global finalists competing for $10m of prizes at the ANA Avatar XPrize Finals in November 2021.
The company was chosen out of 37 semi-finalists after judges evaluated their system to allow humans to control robots in real time.