The founder of Baidu-acquired AI assistant startup Raven Tech’s (渡鴉) Lu Cheng has resigned for personal reasons after heading Baidu’s smart hardware unit for a little over a year, our Chinese sister site is reporting (in Chinese).
After acquiring Raven Tech in February 2017, Baidu appointed Lu as the general manager of the Intelligent Hardware Unit, which he reported directly to Lu Qi, then COO of Baidu. The company later renamed the unit as “Raven Studio” in March.
Acquiring Raven Tech was thought to be Baidu’s further push into AI, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Few months after launching Raven H—Baidu’s Lego-like smart speaker that runs on the DuerOS voice AI system—in November, poor sales and internal disagreements over the positioning of the product marginalized the Raven Tech team. Baidu ended up making less than 10,000 units of the Raven H speaker, and rumors were rife that Lu Cheng was considering leaving Baidu. The Raven Tech team went from building a “definitive product” for Baidu to exploring “the direction of cutting-edge products.”
Earlier this year at the company’s annual meeting Baidu’s then-COO Lu Qi admitted that the Raven Tech acquisition was “done in a hasty manner,” and that not a lot of thought was put into what comes after the acquisition.
After Raven H’s flop, Baidu Smart Living Group (SLG)—consisting of DuerOS Business Unit, Hardware Ecological Channel Department, and Raven Studio—devoted more resources on the development of mid-range smart speaker Xiaodu Zaijia (小度在家). According to 36Kr, most of Raven Studio’s staff were transferred to the Hardware Ecological Channel Department.
Founded in 2014, Beijing-based Raven Tech focused on AI technology for smart home systems. Raven Tech’s other product, Project Flow, was likened to a Chinese version of Siri when it first launched but eventually failed to take off.