While the PRC is striving to become an AI superpower, a Beijing-based startup managed to bring next-gen robots into households. It’s ROOBO, the AI solutions developer behind the worldwide popular “pet robot” Domgy and Pudding BeanQ
As we pointed out many times, China is taking giant steps in the world of artificial intelligence. The mission to become the world’s next hi-tech pole is closer than ever and Beijing seems motivated in bringing all its technological efforts into every people’s life.
According to the Chinese leadership, robotics will be a key cog in Made in China 2025 strategy. PRC’s robot-makers will dominate the domestic market, thus the goal is to supply 50% of local demand by 2020, rising to 70% by 2025.
The goal to become an AI superpower is scheduled to be reached by 2030 but the Dragon is already laying the foundations to dominate the world of robotics. However, it is not just a matter of rewriting the global geography of hi-tech innovation, but rather changing the world through advanced technologies starting from improving people’s quality of life.
Therefore, in order to put these new technologies at the service of the population, the Middle Kingdom has already launched many projects across the country such as the development of smart cities, the implementation of hyper-efficient transportation, and the use of automation in the food industry or logistics.
But there is a Chinese company, which brought AI at a whole new level making the dream to live in a sci-fi movie set come true. It is ROOBO, the Beijing-based AI solutions developer behind the worldwide popular and award-winning “pet robots” Pudding and Domgy.
© Unsplash. In recent years, China witnessed a huge growth of industries dedicated to the development of AI, reaching the number of 4040 AI companies in May 2018, whose 26% is located in Beijing.
Intelligent Steward Co., Ltd. – ROOBO – is a fast-growing leading international startup that provides hardware and AI solutions. Founded by Bruce Liu in 2014, it is headquartered in Beijing and it has also branched out to Suzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and even to Seoul, Moscow, and Seattle.
While the world changes drastically and cutting-edge technologies are starting to surround people enhancing the quality of life, ROOBO defines itself as “the company that makes these changes a reality.”
Following the mission to make artificial intelligence accessible to all, the AI solutions developer is dedicated to exploring artificial intelligence while designing next-generation robots and other smart hardware addressed to consumers. The final goal is thus to be able to provide a great user experience and change everyday life consequently.
At ROOBO’s AI research and development facility in Shenzhen, engineers and developers from all around the world are working with partners like IBM, Microsoft, and Princeton University to develop new solutions.
Since its founding in 2014, ROOBO has grown to 300 employees, with 7 worldwide offices, including one in Seattle.
It initially received $100 million from iFlytek, and in September 2017 it announced a further $53 million funding by Seven Seas Capital, whose head, Xiong Minghua, was Tencent CTO and is now ROOBO CEO.
The company developed a platform called ROS.AI, which provides AI interaction capability for equipment. This system is made of chips, cloud service, operating system and others that serve as a comprehensive platform with multiple applications, as for example in household electric appliances, cars, and robots.
ROS.AI is actually ROOBO’s core product. The one that makes a robotic-machine different from any other appliance. It allows interaction, language processing, and communication. In addition, the startup also developed a particular intelligent chip, which allows robots to understand, process, and learn from speech patterns thanks to its advanced deep learning voice technology and a large amount of data.
The commercialized intelligent products not only include household appliances that work through voice recognition and are thus able to follow users’ instructions, but they also include intelligent vehicle solutions. These in-car technologies are addressed to businessmen who want to turn travel-time into productive-time. Therefore, they provide human-computer interaction and services to support the car’s owner business activity inside the vehicle.
© iF Design. Roobo, Jelly. Thanks to its next-gen robotics innovations, in 2016, Roobo already passed the 100,000 unit sales level.
For what concerns robotics, ROOBO developed many award-winning robots designed to both the workplace and the domestic environment.
Among all the robotic products, Farnese and Jelly are two commercial service robots designed for business applications.
Jelly is already used in China Merchants Bank to welcome customers and give business information. Winner of the iF Design Award, the Red Dot and the IDEA Design Award, it leverages the ROS.AI system to perform many functions such as translating, reporting time and weather, booking a cab, and so on.
Farnese, instead, other than autonomous localization and navigation, has many functions that include voice conversation and facial recognition. Its powerful AI engine and cloud service is useful to provide explanations or guiding services in public places like airports or malls.
According to ROOBO’s Marketing Director Anthony Chen, the company’s ambitious new product Domgy is meant to be a “family friend that makes life easier and more fun at home.”
Nevertheless, ROOBO’s efforts are mostly recognized for what concerns the domestic appliances.
Domgy is the most pet-like robot. Thanks to an advanced face and voice recognition technology it integrates indoor navigation planning with entertainment and relationship building capabilities.
The “robot dog” imitates pet behaviors when interacting with humans, and tells family members apart using facial recognition cameras and voiceprints. Plus, it helps with daily tasks and it can remotely manage smart home devices memorizing rules and commands.
Moreover, a camera in Dogmy’s head can also serve as a monitor, alerting family members when it encounters a stranger in the house, just like a guard dog.
© ROOBO. Pudding S, Smart Robot for Early Child Education. ROOBO have teamed up with internationally-established universities to further AI technology development.
ROOBO is, however, most widely known for its adorable flagship Pudding series companion smart robots for children.
While Pudding S is designed to support parents in the child’s growth turning education into a game experience, it is Pudding BeanQ the company’s most popular home device. This cute green bean-shaped companion is designed to provide specialized English classes for young language learners.
Firstly showed at the CES – Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas, it won the Gold Award of Annual Global AI Robot for Kids and it has received the “best of the best” honor at the Red Dot award in 2017 – a top international product and communication design prize – beating thousands of other quality entries from more than 60 countries.
Actually, the BeanQ provides customized and optimized voice-recognition services based on dialogue engines and rich educational resources specially designed for children. Retailed for $370, the voice-controlled device not only offers synchronized learning support but it can also do video calls and take smart snapshots.
The particular feature is that the BeanQ combines different resources for children of different ages as theorized by Maria Montessori but in the meantime, it also interacts with responsive emotions turning the child experience into a true relationship with the robot.
Therefore, this mechanical friend is incredibly capable of intensifying emotional communication between family members supporting the parents in guiding kids to develop thinking processes.
Combining AI with rich educational features, ROOBO’s products are groundbreaking. At home, in school, and at the office, the Chinese startup is thus making a giant difference.
In order to respond to its mission, the company intends to keep the cost of hardware low, so that average households around the world can easily afford them.
“A robot, especially an android, must not just fit our needs of function as a ‘machine’, it must show more about the sense of life as a ‘human’. We want to integrate ‘human’ into ‘machine’ naturally in order to make users feel its vitality through our designing,” said the senior design director of ROOBO, Feizi Ye.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, China is the world’s largest industrial robot-maker, accounting for one-third of the world’s demand. Indeed, the Middle Kingdom witnessed a huge growth of industries dedicated to the development of AI, and ROOBO is now one of the over 4040 AI companies, which are shaping the country’s hi-tech industry.
So, while the Dragon is taking giant steps in the technology sector becoming a worldwide leader in artificial intelligence, ROOBO already conquered its place in the industry turning a Beijing-based startup into a real gamechanger in the world of robotics and probably one of the next leading IoT companies.
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