AI Emerging Company

Microsoft Partner ROOBO: Cute Robots, Smart Conferencing, AI Platform

Founded in 2014, ROOBO received US$100 million in Series A financing from iFlytek, and in September 2017 announced B Round financing of US$53 million led by Seven Seas Capital.

The recent Microsoft AI Innovate conference in Beijing provided a peek at the host’s first-ever AI Conference System, developed in partnership with Chinese AI robotics company ROOBO, aka Intelligent Steward Co. Based on the Microsoft Speech Device SDK (MSDDK) tech introduced at Build 2018, the sleek and conical tabletop microphone array can effectively identify and tag multiple meeting participants. ROOBO handled MSDDK implementation in audio, acoustics, and hardware.

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Microsoft Executive Vice President of Artificial Intelligence and Research Harry Shum (left) on stage with ROOBO CTO Yu Lei

Founded in 2014, ROOBO received US$100 million in Series A financing from iFlytek, and in September 2017 announced B Round financing of US$53 million led by Seven Seas Capital. The company focus is on AI R&D to expand existing business, and attract industry customers to its platform. Former Tencent CTO Xiong Minghua, who also heads Seven Seas, is ROOBO CEO.

ROS.AI is the company’s AI system solutions platform, which provides developers with hardware modules, software systems and artificial intelligence services for application in home appliances, automobiles, and robotics. The company also provides end-to-end ROOBO-Dev Kits for microphone arrays using Microsoft Speech Services, which offer far-field custom keyword spotting features.

ROOBO is however most widely known for its adorable flagship Pudding series companion smart robots for children. The upper-end Pudding BeanQ, which retails for US$370 (CN¥2,399), as a bean-shaped and voice-controlled device equipped with an interactive AI English teacher, audio for picture books, synchronized learning support for elementary school curriculums, etc. It can also do video calls and take smart snapshots.

The PuddingS model (US$155/CN¥999) is a conversation robot that can perform a range of educational activities including telling interactive stories. PuddingS has an encyclopedic Q&A capability, and is also available in Russian.

Domgy is ROOBO’s robodog. A cutie with big round eyes and pudgy limbs, it imitates pet behaviors when interacting with humans, and tells family members apart using facial recognition cameras and voiceprints. Jelly, a business robot for banks, hospitals, restaurants, and shopping malls, won the 2017 iF Design Award. The China Merchants Bank is using the robot to greet customers and give presentations.

Headquartered in Beijing, ROOBA has branched out to Suzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Seoul, Moscow, and Seattle. The company passed the 100,000 unit sales level in 2016, has partnered with iFlytek, Nuance, and Qualcomm to provide AI solutions for home appliances and audio equipment, and is powering electronic products for Gree and Midea.


Localization: Meiling Wu | Editors: Meghan Han, Michael Sarazen

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