A Chinese electric vehicle (EV) giant has completed a round of funding where it raised $100 million to develop and manufacture “rideable robot unicorns” for kids.
Xpeng Robotics and several backers concluded the Series A round in a month where total investments in China have slumped under the weight of an increasingly volatile global marketplace.
The manufacturer’s first product is a quadrupedal robot with “superior autonomous navigation”. The company describes the four-legged bot as being equipped with safe and agile mobility, capable of navigating multiple terrain types, and possessing a variety of emotions when interacting with humans.
The dog-sized robot for your home is advertised as a companion with the ability to care, transport and entertain. A promotional video shared by Xpeng shows the robot interacting with a child by nodding and winking at the excited youth. The clip then depicts the youngster riding the robotic creature as if it were some futuristic horse.
Lead backer, IDG Capital investor, Cui Guangfu said that while he acknowledged that the household robotics sector was still in its infancy, Xpeng Robotics’ latest venture represented an immense opportunity for growth and development in the relatively young market
Xpeng robotics says it sees its bionic unicorn as a testing ground, a litmus test to ascertain the feasibility of branching out into the wider robotics environment.
Producing robots alongside new energy vehicles such as EVs and electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) made sense as many core technologies are applicable in both industries, said company chairman, He Xiaoping.
He added that, in his opinion, a great deal of “smart car” manufacturers would follow suit and experiment with robotics.
Elephant Robotics, a Shenzhen-based firm, has already created a robotic companion – a small bionic cat. Fully autonomous and capable of expressing a number of emotions, the little robot feline retails for $1 299.99.
The US-based Boston Dynamics created ‘Spot’ in 2020, and the bumblebee-yellow robot quickly went viral. Advertised as an industrial commercial robot, you can buy Spot for about $75 000.
Xpeng Robotics has not released a price list for its robopet but did say it expects its designs to enter local homes within two years.