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Startup BluHaptics Raises $1.3M to Bring Its Underwater Software to Space

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BluHaptics VP of Engineering Steve White (BSEE ’85), co-founder Fredrik Rydén (Ph.D. ’13) and CEO Don Pickering, from left, in their Fremont office space.

BluHaptics, the software company pioneering new solutions for telerobotics, has secured $1.36 million. This investment follows more than a million dollars in recent U.S. government grants, which together will be used to support the company’s expansion and launch of its first commercially-available product.

The startup was founded by UW Electrical Engineering Professor Howard Chizeck and then doctoral student Fredrik Rydén (Ph.D. ’13). The company grew out of the work Chizeck and Rydén were conducting on haptic interaction, which relays forces, vibrations and motion to operators of robotic systems.

Rydén is now Chief Technology Officer for BluHaptics. He and other researchers at the company have integrated advanced applications of three core technologies – real-time modeling, machine learning and haptic feedback – to create the next generation of software for telerobotics. Featuring a more user-friendly, visual interface, this new system makes it significantly easier for operators to interact with and control remote robots in often dangerous and unpredictable environments.

“We are meeting with companies in the subsea and space sectors who are particularly impressed with the ease and precision our interactive software brings to mission-critical tasks,” explains BluHaptics CEO Don Pickering. “Whether robots are working deep in the ocean on an oil rig or in space to maintain satellites, our software is extending the reach of what robotics can achieve while at the same time enhancing productivity and safety.”

Howard Chizeck

Professor Howard Chizeck

BluHaptics’ devices are unique in that they use force-feedback control systems and 3-D displays to let customers control robots more easily and efficiently. The software can be used with oil rigs, excavation tools and – eventually – with satellites and drones.

The robotics market is poised for significant growth, with International Data Corporation anticipating worldwide spending on robotics and related services to hit $135.4 billion in 2019, up from an estimated $71 billion in global robotics spending in 2015.

The company, which currently has six full-time and two part-time employees, is continually applying for patents. BluHaptics was awarded two patents last fall, and another four are pending. The company’s application for underwater manipulator arms will release this summer. 

Seattle Angel Fund, a member-directed investment fund focusing on early-stage, growth-oriented businesses in the Pacific Northwest, led the round of investments with participation from Seattle’s Alliance of Angels.

“We are as excited about the management team they have put in place as we are about their groundbreaking technology,” said Susan Preston, managing member of the Seattle Angel Fund. “We believe BluHaptics is well poised to transform the telerobotics market.”