Scotland-based deep tech company Touchlab which develops electronic skin (e-skin) for robots has raised a $4.8 million in seed funding. The investment was led by Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest and most active early-stage investors, with participation from existing investors, including Creator Fund and Techstart Ventures.
The funding will enable the platform to further strengthen its commercial and tech teams to meet the growing demand for large-scale e-skin deployments.
The biggest barrier to mass robot adoption is their inability to feel the world around them. Founded by Dr Zaki Hussein, the Edinburgh startup based at The Higgs Centre for Innovation is solving 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 (DoF). Machines fitted with Touchlab’s e-skin can now roll pens, grasp soft objects, and even detect slips.
Dr Zaki Hussein, founder and CEO of Touchlab, 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.”
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.”
Unlike older sensor technologies, TouchLab’s e-skin is also able to withstand a high load, sense direction in 3D - the ‘holy grail’ of e-skin and important for detecting slip. It can also withstand extreme environments such as acid, high and low temperatures, and even radioactive environments, giving it unique ‘superhuman’ capabilities.