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BluHaptics demonstrates how to use its software to control a robotic arm underwater. (BluHaptics Image)

Telerobotics startup BluHaptics has raised $1.36 million to launch its first commercial product this summer and expand the domain of its robotic control software from the deep sea to deep space.

Seattle Angel Fund led the latest funding round with participation from Seattle’s Alliance of Angels.

Seattle-based BluHaptics, which spun out of the University of Washington in 2013, builds software to improve communication between pilots and remotely operated vehicles underwater. Since its launch, the company has received more than $1 million in government grants.

CEO Don Pickering told GeekWire that his company has begun onboarding early customers, and recently did a test “with a major oil and gas company.” Pickering said the test went well.

“We are getting almost unanimous positive response on the software,” he said.

Controlling robotic arm - BluHaptics
BluHaptics’ chief technology officer, Fredrik Ryden, controls a robotic arm using a haptic pen and an Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset. (Photo via BluHaptics)

BluHaptics is also looking at where it can take its software next, with its next move being literally out of this world. Pickering said BluHaptics is using some of the new money to expand into the space robotics market.

Don PIckering.

“We’re getting strong interest in space applications for running robots remotely in space as well as terrestrial applications, including service robots and even aerial drones, of all things,” Pickering said. “Robots do really well in a factory environment, where everything can be programmed with a high degree of accuracy because everything is known. But when you take a robot into the field or use it remotely, it becomes incredibly challenging.”

That’s where BluHaptics comes in. Their devices 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 soon, with satellites and drones.

Pickering said 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 in June.

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

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