Chinese AI and humanoid robotic company UBTECH Robotics today announced a staggering US$820 million in Series C funding. With its new estimated value of US$5 billion, Shenzhen City-based UBTECH becomes the world’s most valuable AI startup.
Internet giant Tencent led the funding with a US$120 million investment. It is believed UBTECH’s capabilities in robot design and manufacturing will strengthen Tencent’s AI products. Last year, Tencent reportedly pumped US$40 million into UBTECH. Also joining the funding are the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Haier, Minsheng Securities, Telstra, CDHFund, and others.
UBTECH Founder and CEO Zhou Jian told Synced that “this round of financing will be mainly used for strengthening R&D capabilities, facilitating marketing and brand development, and attracting top-tier talents.”
Founded in 2012, UBTECH aims to “bring a robot into every home, and truly integrate intelligent robots into the daily lives of everyone creating a more intelligent way of life.” The company’s Alpha 1S robot holds the Guinness World Record for “most robots dancing simultaneously.” A video of UBTECH robodog Jimu dancing and licking paws at the 2018 CCTV Spring Festival Gala went viral. Also in the UBTECH family are Cruzr, an intelligent service robot; the voice-activated, video-enabled companion Lynx; and a Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper robot. The company even produces a BuilderBots Kit for children who want to build robots.
While the global robotic market is competitive, UBTECH has an advantage with its technological development of humanoid robot servos and motion controlled gait algorithms. UBTECH is a global leader in robotic joint and body structure manufacturing.
Zhou says UBTECH’s sales goal for 2018 will exceed CN¥2 billion. He also unveiled the company’s roadmap for the next four years:
- Commercialize high-torque servos and accelerate the development of robot operating system ROSA in 2018;
- Implement the service robot technology Home AI in 2019;
- Launch a robot cloud service platform and a new generation of low-cost, large-scale humanoid service robots in 2020;
- Introduce a full-fledged solution for the service robot industry by integrating core hardware servo, operating system ROSA, and cloud service platform in 2021.
Zhou’s vision for robots goes beyond the crunching of algorithms and whirring of servos. Rather he stresses the relationship of such machines to human beings. “In UBTECH, we insist on viewing the robot as a member of a future family.”
Journalist: Tony Peng| Editor: Michael Sarazen