Tencent throws $40 million into AI robot company UBTECH

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Shenzhen-based UBTECH announced yesterday a $40 million Series C led by Tencent.

Established in March 2012, UBTECH focuses on the research and development of intelligent home robots, and has since launched the robot Alpha, and Alpha II which can be used as personal assistant or as an entertainer. Previously, their Alpha 1S model performed at 2016 CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala, during the Chinese New Years making the Guinness World Records of “most robots dancing simultaneously.” The company is mainly working on artificial intelligence and humanoid robot research and development, platform software development and product sales.

The current investment shows Tencent’s attempt to focus more on AI, as the internet giant is also heavily pushing its efforts and funds into the booming sector. According to forecasts by International Federation of Robotics (IFR), there will be 42 million new service robots added for personal and domestic use between 2016 and 2019. Many Chinese companies, including Rokid, Pudding, and Jett Companion Robot has introduced their home robots to the market, and UBTECH is one of them.

In 2016, the Shenzhen-based robotics technology company received a $ 100 million Series B round from CDH Investments. It is reported that after its Series B round of financing, UBTECH became robotic unicorn as its valuation has reached $1 billion, serving as the first case of its vertical to become a unicorn in China. 

UBTECH’s founder Zhou Jian was inspired by Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robots back in 2008, and start with the research and development of the humanoid robot’s core source servo. It was four years later that he incorporated UBTECH and gradually introduced consumer-grade humanoid robots, commercial humanoid robots, and Jimu robots, which includes programmable robotic kits for children.