After obtaining more than $1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, BluHaptics Inc. has obtained $1.36 million in Series A funding for subsea robotics. The Seattle Angel Fund also provided insight into what investors are looking for in startups.
Seattle-based BluHaptics was spun out of the University of Washington and has developed systems that combine machine learning, real-time 3D modeling, and haptic feedback to aid in the control of subsea robotics.
“The University of Washington is one of the largest public recipients in the U.S. of government research grants,” noted Susan Preston, a managing member of the Seattle Angel Fund. “Our fund is looking for any great deal in the Pacific Northwest.”
“We came out of the applied physics lab in 2013,” said Don Pickering, CEO of BluHaptics. “The initial problem was helping the Navy with subsea cleanup.”
“Such tasks used to involve human divers, then ROVs [remotely operated vehicles],” he told Robotics Business Review. “Even though they’ve been cleaning and repairing installations for 20 years, ROVs are still manually controlled and are not precise or efficient enough.”
“Things get challenging very quickly in dynamic environments,” said Pickering. “Software helps close the loop. We’re building software that enables safer and easier teleoperation of robots.”
Worldwide spending on robotics and related services will grow from $71 billion to $135.4 billion in 2019, predicted research firm International Data Corp. (IDC). After slowdowns in undersea exploration because of recession and low oil prices, that portion of the market is rebounding.
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BluHaptics plans to use its funding to commercialize its software. The company is initially focusing on subsea robotics inspections and maintenance for the oil and gas industry.
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