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Artificial intelligence and humanoid robotics startup UBTech raises $820 million in latest funding round

UBTech Robotics, a developer of intelligent humanoid robots, announced today the completion of its Series C investment totaling $820 million with a market valuation of $5 billion, the single largest funding round ever for an artificial intelligence company.

The investment was led by Tencent, and also includes funding from ICBC, Haier, Minsheng Securities, Telstra, Easyhome Furnishings, Chia Tai Group, China Minsheng Bank, China Film and TV Capital, CGN, Sichuan Railway Investment Group, Green Pine Capital Partners, Whale Capital, and Shenzhen JinFuZi Network Technology.

The lead investor of UBTech’s Series B funding, CDH Investments, also participated. 

As part of its investment, Tencent will work closely with UBTech on future product development.

Tencent has already worked with UBTech, launching the humanoid robot Qrobot Alpha last December – the first robot to feature the Tencent Cloud Xiaowei service; and the personalized educational robot Alpha Ebot in February which integrates the high-quality, comprehensive, and open AI services and interactivity of the Tencent Dingdang assistant.

James Zhou, UBTech founder and chief executive officer, says: “We are honored and gratified by this investment, the exceptionally high quality of our investors, and the strategic initiatives we will be able to launch as we innovate a new era of consumer robots.

“As technology evolves to include more voice and touch capabilities, people need new devices that communicate and interact more naturally and intuitively at home, at school and at work.

“While trends in robots and robotics are developing, no company has yet stepped forward with the resources, vision and products ecosystem to transform robot fantasy and fiction into robot reality.

“UBTech is bringing this reality to life by expanding the possibilities for innovation.”

Zhou said the latest capital infusion represents a new round of strategic funding, with UBTech and Tencent committed to building an ecosystem of services and content for intelligent, humanoid robots.

Zhou said the proceeds from this funding round will mainly be used for research and development, market and brand expansion, as well as talent recruitment.

For research and development, UBTech will increase investment in large-size humanoid robots, humanoid robot servo, gait planning and motion control algorithms, computer vision, and more.

For market and brand expansion, UBTech will accelerate its deployment in the global market and improve its brand awareness worldwide.

For talent recruitment, UBTech will continue its plan to hire workers from around the world. UBTech has already made key, global hires, including:

  • Professor Tao Dacheng from the University of Sydney, who is also an academician of Academia Europaea, as UBTech’s artificial intelligence chief scientist;
  • Professor Zhao Mingguo from Tsinghua University as UBTech’s humanoid robotics chief scientist;
  • Former IEEE president Howard Michel as UBTech’s director;
  • Jimmy Zhang, as UBTech’s CFO and secretary of the board of directors; New Fortune Gold Medal Secretary for three consecutive years
  • Michael Tam as UBTech’s chief brand officer, formerly CEO Ogilvy fashion and President of Hogarth & Ogilvy China; and
  • inventor Tomotaka Takahashi, father of the Robi robots, as its chief product officer.

Since its founding in 2012, UBTech has introduced several groundbreaking consumer humanoid robots, including:

  • the Alpha series interactive system of robotic building blocks;
  • JIMU Robot;
  • the Cloud-based intelligent humanoid service robot Cruzr; and
  • the Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper Robot (in partnership with Disney).

UBTech’s “revolutionary”, bi-pedal Robot Walker gained international recognition for gait planning and motion control algorithms, computer vision, machine learning, emotion recognition, and SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping).