Is China overtaking the U.S. as the leader in artificial intelligence (AI) research and development (R&D)? It is a highly debatable question, but one thing is very clear – China is doing far more than talking about AI.
China surpassed the U.S. in volume of AI research in 2014, including in AI-related patent registration and articles on deep learning. In 2016, Chinese authorities published a robotics industry development plan outlining goals and strategies for robotics industry growth over the next five years. This was followed by the national government’s announcement in 2017 that it wanted to make the country the world leaders in AI technologies by 2030.
A manufacturing powerhouse, China, is betting on AI to help counter rising labor costs and slowing economic growth and to upgrade technology across the economy. Therefore, the Chinese government supports AI as a strategic area supported by high-level policies with ambitious and quantifiable targets, inter-ministry coordination, international collaboration, and government funding for research and development. According to reports, the Chinese government is expected to invest more than $30 billion in AI and related technologies.
PWC predicts China will be the world’s most massive AI winner. By 2030, the adoption of these new technologies will increase the Chinese GDP by 26%, while world GDP will increase by 14% on average. In this article, we’ll see 10 of China’s top robotics startups.
1. AI Nemo
The Chinese team of AI Nemo has developed one of the first home companion robots in the world, Nemo. The startup, which has raised more than $10 M to date, is currently building a next-generation robot that integrates with a number of consumer devices and can also make video calls. The robot is marketed as a way to improve communication among family members and can be remotely controlled by a proprietary mobile app.
AUBO, based in Beijing, is a rising cobots industry star. Its products are designed to work with people on complex manufacturing tasks for warehousing and manufacturing facilities. The company’s flagship robot arm sold for about $18 K and found a loyal client base in the automated sector. The company has dual R&D centers in Beijing and the U.S. and technology partnerships with manufacturing firms in both countries.
3. Borns Robotics
Borns Robotics is a medical robotics startup based in Chengdu, Western China’s lively business hub. The range of robotic surgery tools allows doctors to perform a highly complex, risky operation with unprecedented accuracy and accuracy. The startup announced an $18 million increase in funding this year in a funding round led by Swiss China Capital. The funding will be used to support the startup’s R&D efforts by completing its first clinical tests, and the BMR5’s large-scale roll-out, its next-generation automated surgery system.
Chinese robotics company Geek+ is rapidly becoming a significant player in the fast-growing robot industry. Its diverse line of logistics-oriented robots offers businesses a range of automation capabilities, from warehouse automation to automated order fulfillment. The company has raised over $60 million in funding and plans to expand internationally by the end of this year. Geek +’s latest innovation is known as the first “interweaving sorting robot,” an automated system that increases parcel sorting efficiency. This technology is already proving integral in boosting e-commerce companies like Alibaba and Taobao’s logistics capabilities.
Makeblock is a Shenzhen-based startup creating next-generation education robots for kids worldwide. The startup offers a wide range of robotics products designed to teach kids how to code and recently raised $30 million in Series B funds from investors like Sequoia Capital at the end of last year to help them achieve this goal— worth more than $200 million in just five years. Makeblock also forged technology partnerships with other technology companies (such as Microsoft) to bring their robots to higher-education robotics students.
Rokid is an Hangzhou-based company producing a wide range of smart devices and robots from AI-enabled voice assistants to robotic smart glasses. Earlier this year, the startup raised $100 million in Series B expansion funding in a round led by Credit Suisse to help it expand in America, its second-largest after China market. Besides its technology-focused R&D team, Rokid also boasts a highly qualified scientific advisory committee to inform its work. The committee comprises dozens of members from various industries.
Shanghai’s Slamtec builds smart robots and navigation services. Using state-of-the-art AI, a “robot cerebellum” is developed that can perform agile movements autonomously and increase depth perception. Last year, Slamtec raised $22 m in Series C funds to develop automatic positioning algorithms for its next-generation robots.
8. UBTECH Robotics
UBTECH is one of the world’s leading robotics startups but plans to grow faster. Shenzhen robotics company recently announced $820 M in Series C funding, currently worth over $5B. UBTECH is specialized in building humanoid robots, offering commercial and consumer models. UBTECH will continue to develop its future generation of robots through the new funding round, leveraging AI technology, and integrating with other domestic and existing robots.
9. Youcan Robotics
Youcan Robotics is a company that designs an underwater robot that can be used by anyone to capture HD video and explore the world’s oceans. Youcan’s ROV Drone is saltwater resistant with an integrated 4 K video camera and battery life up to 5 hours. It can lock and track underwater objects, as an air-based drone. The Shanghai-based company has grown predominantly using seed finance, conducting crowdfunding rounds on platforms like Indiegogo to fuel its earliest growth phases.
ZongMu builds software that “sees” autonomous vehicles on the road. Last year the startup provided $14 M in Series B funding to help improve its own driving technology that some of China’s largest car manufacturers (such as Geely and Yema Auto) are already using. ZongMu recently announced a strategic partnership for the development of the next generation automated parking technology with the Visteon automotive electronics manufacturer.