Robot Kits for Kids and Cool Robots That Dance
You might be scared about robots that could steal your job, but what about cool robots that teach you how to do yoga or robot kits for kids to learn and play with? Apparently a whole bunch of rich investors think there’s a niche for these types of entertainment robots because both are being built by a “Chinese robotics unicorn”. We promise you that phrase is going to make a whole lot more sense in a second. Let’s break it down.
In a recent article we talked about how Chinese startups are often overlooked because they are difficult to understand and research, not to mention the difficulties one can encounter when coming across hilarious excerpts of Engrish. Nonetheless, we rolled up our sleeves and brought you the 7 hottest Chinese startups that are all have valuations of $5 billion or more. Startups that have a valuation of $1 billion or more are also called unicorns and there are presently 177 startups that are unicorns. With all the talk of how robots are taking over the world, surprisingly just one of those 177 unicorns is in robotics. That one robotic unicorn just happens to be Chinese. Allow us to present you with the world’s only Chinese robotic unicorn, UBTech Robotics.
Founded in 2012, UBTECH Robotics has taken in $120 million to develop and commercialize humanoid robots for the education and entertainment sectors. They currently offer two lines of products at the moment with a 3rd mysterious product line called the “Cruiser” which is coming soon. Let’s take a look at the two product lines that are available today.
Cool Robots That Dance
UBTECH sells a series of “fun family robots” called Alpha. The first model, the Alpha1, comes in two flavors; the Alpha1 S and the Alpha1 Pro. Here’s what the Alpha1 S looks like:
It looks like kind of neat but what exactly does it do? Since there are three types of robots, let’s take a look at the functionality for the latest model, the Alpha2, which was actually presold on Indiegogo.
We’ve warned before about how crowdfunding campaigns should be avoided because of inexperienced business founders, or sometimes outright scams. In some cases though, legitimate companies use crowdfunding platforms to presell products and gauge customer interest. In some respects, the crowdfunding process acts like a beta period where you can ship early units and communicate directly with your customer. This is exactly what UBTECH is doing with the Alpha2. Through a successful crowdfunding campaign they presold $1.4 million worth of robots. These robots were likely sold at price points less than the $1,499 retail price so that means they succeeded in preselling at least 1,000 robots.
So what do these things do? The first thing to note is that they move very smoothly and can emulate human motion as seen below:
So in addition to doing yoga poses, here’s a list of things that these cool robots can do that are supposed to make you want to shell out $1,499 for one:
- It can provide reminders and alarms like telling you to take your pills
- You can have conversations with it (???), and it will interpret languages for you
- It can read and send texts and emails, and control Wi-Fi office equipment to print and fax
- It can take pictures of you
- It will tell you stories
- It can control smart appliances like lights and locks
- It is your own personal DJ, dancer, and singer.
If you saw one of these robots pulling some dance moves you’d be hard-pressed not to think the robot was cool but we don’t see ourselves spending $1,499 on one. Honestly, there isn’t one of those features that sounds attractive enough to make us want to buy one and we pulled that list of features right off the Indiegogo campaign page so we can only assume that those are it’s biggest value propositions. Apparently, at least 1,000 people disagree with us. We do believe however that if they have a model that speaks Mandarin, then this thing will be a huge hit with the Chinese. Tai chi anyone? If you want to save a few dollars you can just buy the Alpha 1 on Amazon for $429 and it will probably provide the same fun factor.
Robot Kits for Kids
The second main product offering from UBTECH is robot kits for kids and we have to say that this is one cool robot learning platform. Imagine getting a box of 675 connectors, character parts and 16 robotic servos that you can snap together to easily build six predesigned 8” to 12” tall characters like the ones seen below:
That is about one of the coolest toys we can think of for kid, but it’s not cheap and will set you back about $360 on Amazon. They also sell the Jimu Robot Explorer version which is also a robot kit for kids except it only comes with 7 motors and costs just $199 on Amazon. Here’s a look at all three robots on offer from UBTech that are available on Amazon:
It will be interesting to see what sort of reviews the Alpha2 gets when it finally comes out. $1,400 dancing robots make great gifts for the person that has it all but it’s hard to imagine that these things are really going to take off. The fact is though, sophisticated institutional investors have ascribed a $1 billion value to UBTech because presumably, they think that selling robot kits for kids and cool robots that dance will be high growth business model. Time will tell. In the meantime, now you know what to get your kids for Christmas.
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