A Japanese company called Groove X has raised an astonishing $70 million to develop and release what it calls the “next generation” of household, or companion, robots.
The company has named its new creation “Lovot”, which is a combination of the word “love” and “robot”, but has yet to release pictures of the machine. It does, however, provide a glimpse in a video (below).
The founder of Groove X is Kaname Hayashi, a former Toyota engineer and lead developer of Softbank Robotics’ interactive humanoid robot, Pepper.
The main backer of Groove X in this latest funding round is apparently Mirai Creation Investment, but it seems there are many other companies who have also contributed funds to the enterprise.
Operated by Sparx Group, which is based in Tokyo and led by president Shuhei Abe, Groove X says it has now raised funds from 20 companies, including main investors auto giant Toyota and megabank Sumitomo Mitsui.
Groove X says it is developing a “new generation household robots that can improve people’s performance or quality of daily life by acting as a companion and providing comfort, as opposed to robots that substitute human work”.
While past robots had primarily functional roles and covered work performed by people, Groove X says it focuses on “robots that can accompany people at an emotional level and offer feelings of warmth”.
This is why the robot has been given its concept name “Lovot”.
In an environment where ageing populations, nuclear families, and dual-income families are rapidly increasing and negative effects of single living are becoming a societal issue, Groove X believes that companionship by Lovot “will provide emotional fulfillment and a sense of relief and as a result, contribute to increasing people’s performance”.
Product announcement of Lovot is planned for in fall 2018, and product launch for the general public is scheduled in 2019.
The capital funds will be used for such product announcements or development and marketing costs necessary for the launch.
After capital investments, Sparx and INCJ plan to continue hands-on support for Groove X, including assignment of external board members.