Touchlab has developed electronic skin that gives machines a human sense of touch.
We launched Creator Fund to back innovation coming out of UK universities with the potential to change the world, and founders with the ability to do so. There are few better examples than Touchlab.
“We are going to build the world’s next great robotics company by solving one of robots’ biggest limitations — and there is nowhere better to do that than Edinburgh.” Touchlab’s founder, Zaki told me over our first coffee together.
Zaki Hussein is a British/Finnish PhD in intelligent sensing and measurement. He has a unique ability to both think big (robotic devices in outer space need to be able to sense atmospheric conditions) and deliver commercially now (his skin is being used in the warehouses of one of the UK’s largest retailers).
Based out of Edinburgh’s Institute for Materials and Processes and working with the Bayes robotics lab, Zaki has spent the past two years giving robots the ability to feel like humans.
Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is how we feel temperature, pressure, pain, and make sense of objects through touch. But machines lack this sense and it stops them from being able to take over a number of activities.
Touchlab’s skin can be wrapped around any surface, it is thinner than human skin, and Touchlab software makes sense of the information received. It allows a robotic doctor to take a pulse, a prosthetic limb to feel, and machines in factories or warehouses to decipher between different goods.
This is how and why we invested:
Making Contact : Sourcing Touchlab
Creator Fund sources university deals early through our team of student investors embedded across the country. We first discovered Touchlab over a year ago in the School of Engineering at Edinburgh. Zaki has built Touchlab with no private funding, owned 100%, and wasn’t ready for VC conversations (a long string of one-way email correspondence from me to Zaki suggests that!)
We followed Zaki’s progress over the year (winning the largest startup competition in Scotland, becoming the only Scottish finalist for next year’s $10mm Avatar X Prize, and signing commercial contracts). In September, our new Scotland student investor Iain, who was on the same university incubator as Zaki, kickstarted the conversation again, and has been instrumental in getting the deal done. Iain (a PhD in Computer Science) insisted on making his own angel investment, alongside his Creator Fund exposure.
Shaking Hands: Why we Invested
We are excited to be joining the team on this exciting journey. As Touchlab says “if avatars can touch, that is the first real attempt for man to fuse with machine, and not only control it, but enhance ourselves beyond what is naturally possible.