Cheetah Mobile—known to international audiences through apps such as Clean Master and live streaming product—is riding China’s AI wave. Their latest initiative: replacing your favorite barista with a robot. Fu Sheng, Chairman and CEO of Cheetah Mobile, showcased his resolve to dive into the new area by taking a swim (literally) during the AI-themed 321 Conference: A Night of Robots at the Beijing National Aquatics Center (aka the Water Cube).

Back in 2016, the company prepared $50 million for AI technologies development, and on Wednesday night, it unveiled the results of two years of their labor. Aside from AI-powered smart devices and robotics products, Cheetah Mobile and its partner OrionStar (猎户星) introduced a jointly-developed robotics and smart device platform, Orion OS, along with five new products.

Their first robot GreetBot (豹小秘) is designed to greet customers and visitors and escort them to their destination. Not only is it cheaper than an actual receptionist, but it’s also cheaper than most competitors. The company plans to rent them for RMB 2999 ($475) a month for a contract of 18 months.

The GreetBot (Image Credit: Cheetah Mobile)

Of course, robots that greet people have been around for years now and are basically gimmicks—cute but mostly useless. Cheetah Mobile believes that it can make a robot really useful and for that, they have equipped it with face and body recognition camera, speech recognition, and a navigation system. It not only greets people but can also keep an eye out for unknown faces.

Fu also introduced a 7-axis robotic arm called xArm7 to which he gave a difficult task – making the perfect cup of coffee. The arms were developed with UFACTORY, and unlike other robots of this type, they target the consumer market instead of the industrial. Two robotic arms showcased their skills at making lattes at Cheetah Cafe.

Robotic arms at Cheetah Cafe (Image credit: Cheetah Mobile)

It seems unlikely that robotic arms will replace baristas soon (even though most Chinese baristas could easily be replaced if you ask this cranky coffee lover). However, Cheetah Mobile showcased some other skills these robotic arms can do such as chopping vegetables, making an omelet, ironing, and other everyday drudgery. The price tag? Only RMB 29,999.

Another new product was an RMB 499 AI speaker called Voicepod which was developed in collaboration with Ximalaya—the radio and podcast app. It is stacked with content from various platforms including Tencent’s QQ Music. Voicepod has been on the market since last year and is taking on other big players in China’s rising AI speaker scene such as Baidu’s DuerOS-powered Raven H speaker, Tmall’s Genie, and JD’s DingDong. The AI speaker is also powered by Orion OS which is working with other big names like Xiaomi, Midea, and Smartisan.

Voicebox AI speaker (Image credit: Cheetah Mobile)

Cheetah introduced two more robots which are more on the cute spectrum than the useful one. Cheetah FriendBot, a companion robot for kids which will warn parents if the child is playing with dangerous objects like scissors and capture photographs of their offspring while they’re away. Cheetah VendBot is a robot stacked with drinks and snacks which is designed to roam around malls, libraries, and other public spaces.

During the event, CEO Fu Sheng announced that Cheetah Mobile had reached cooperation agreements with Microsoft, Sogou, Smartisan, Qualcomm, and Nvidia to help advance robotics. Although the company has been on the international market for a long time, we won’t be seeing its robots roaming around outside China yet, Fu told TechNode.

Masha Borak is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Write to her at masha.borak [at] Pitches with the word "disruptive" will be ignored. Read a good book - learn some more adjectives.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.