As you may have heard, the new leader of China’s ruling party Xi Jinping vistied Tencent on last Friday. What do you think Tencent showed him? WeChat, Google Street View-like maps, and, QYing, a portable interactive projector under QRobot project (report in Chinese).
Tencent management made it clear that they’d not produce smart phones, but the company has rolled out a few hardware devices, for sale. Based in Shenzhen, an electronics manufacturing base in China, the company can leverage the convenience for producing any hardware — unlike companies such as Xiaomi, whose CEO has to fly down from Beijing to work out the supply chain for its long-waited new phone model. Also, different from hardware companies, Tencent has all kinds of content, music, video, news, e-books, games, software and so on, to feed devices.
Partnering with SIAT, the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tencent initiated the development of QRobot, a penguin-shaped small robot that can interact with people, in 2010. The first ones were shipped in August 2011 and sold on the company’s e-commerce platform.
The robot can have simply conversations, by audio or video, with people, responding with information of news, weather, stock market, etc. Software inbuilt enables it to tell stories, read text or conduct a Q&A game. Its head, body and wings can move accordingly.
Over three thousand were sold in the launch month for a price of 1188 yuan ($190). Now it’s priced at 1398 yuan. A kid’s edition, education-oriented, was launched together with QYing in last month.
QYing is released as a new generation of QRobot. It’s Android-based and smaller than a fist. Not only can it projects content on a computer screen through USB cable, or a smart phone screen through HDMI cable, to a wall, but you can also interact with the projected image with a stylus or a remote control pen, triggering clicks on buttons, opening links or drawing on the image, among other AR technology-driven functions.
Video content from QQ Video and games from QQ Games and 3366 Casual Games (Tencent’s partner) have been built in — sounds like a set-top box like Xiaomi’s, right? It’s priced at 1999 yuan ($322), over one thousand pieces have sold out as the official online store shows.
The company would like third-party developers to build applications for it as it’s Android-based.
Weixin, or WeChat, delivered a number of custom-made earphones for media and industry people to try out. Functions only include sending and receiving voice messages and adjusting the sound level. Currently it’s not for sale.
Tencent is also partnering with hardware makers in certain sectors to do customized devices, such as having QPlay, a specially designed QQ Music solution, built in all kinds of music playing devices. It is reported that over ten device manufacturers have reached deals with QPlay, including professional music player makers like Sonos and smart TV makers like TCL (article in Chinese).