June 6, 2023

Robot decoding business, may bring up to 50 years of development?

From the international situation to the new crown epidemic, the impact of the “new normal” in the past three years has filled the external environment with uncertainty, and also left people in this era in unprecedented confusion.

However, the germination and development of technology always brings abiding confidence and guides people through the cycle.

At the end of 2022, in order to give confidence to every practitioner who is willing to maintain growth and stay in the bureau,Geek Park combines a full year of in-depth industry tracking and observation, as well as two months of special interviews, surveyed more than 130 experts, investors, entrepreneurs and senior practitioners, and launched a special issue “Emergence – 2023 China Science and Technology Entrepreneurship” trend”.

this special issueLocked in seven technology tracks that have shown positive variables in 2022,They are: live short video, enterprise services, robots,metaverse, Web3, globalization and the new energy vehicle industry chain. By finding the most critical players in the industry and extracting their cognitions—and sorting out and accumulating them, we hope to leave some public assets for China’s technology industry.

At present, “Emergence” has launched a physical book and an electronic version, which has been officially exposed at the Geek Park IF 2023 conference.In the next 7 days, the official account of Geek Park will push one of the chapters in the form of a refined version every day.

If you are interested in the full report, you can click the link below (issue2023.geekpark.net) to read the full content of the special issue.

Author | Chen Chen Editor | Jing Yu

On October 3, 2022, Elon Musk at Tesla AI The latest prototype of Tesla’s humanoid robot Optimus was officially unveiled this morning. For the stage effect, the prototype “Adventure” performed the “wireless walk” for no more than 10 seconds for the first time, and then stayed quietly on the shelf like a samurai armor.

Nothing is more representative of the pace of human technology entering the sci-fi future than the emergence and popularization of biped humanoid robots. But whether it is Boston Dynamics’ Atlas or Musk’s “Optimus Prime”, its performance shows that there is still a long way to go for humanoid robots.

On the other hand, the less cool “brothers” of humanoid robots, such as industrial robotic arms, industrial logistics vehicles (AGV, Automated Guided Vehicle), AMR (Automated Mobile Robot, autonomous mobile robot) and cleaning robots, However, with its own evolution and ability improvement, it has gradually entered the production and life of human beings.

Compared with previous years, robots are beginning to get rid of the “cool” concept and move towards practical applications.


From 2020 to 2024, the growth of China’s robot market is expected|Data source: IFR (International Federation of Robotics), China Electronic Commerce Association, Zheshang Securities Research Institute

According to IT Juzi data, there will be 197 investments in China’s intelligent robot industry in 2021, with an amount exceeding 88.1 billion yuan. As of the end of September 2022, there have been 103 financings in the robotics industry. Although the number seems to have decreased, there has been a larger single investment of over 100 million US dollars.

Behind the favor of capital is the recognition of the market. According to reliable data, the sales volume of the head commercial cleaning robot company has exceeded 10,000 units, and the revenue has reached the level of 1 billion yuan.

The “turning point” of the robotics industry has emerged.

Compared with the robotic arm that could only rely on coordinate information for reciprocating motion decades ago, with the maturity of hardware and industrial chain, robots have gradually “entered” into the production relationship from a simple “production tool”.

If the underlying code of the previous business was “human power”, the emergence of more intelligent robots may become a new “variable code”, making it possible to “reprogram” business laws.

According to the “14th Five-Year Plan” of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, my country’s working-age population began to decline in 2012, with an average annual decrease of more than 3 million, and the rate of decline is increasing. During the “14th Five-Year Plan” period, more than 40 million people will retire in China, and it is estimated that my country’s labor force population will decrease by 35 million people.

On the one hand, there is a shortage of labor, on the other hand,Highly repetitive, dangerous and tiring manual labor jobs will be expected to rely on the cooperation of robots and humans.

Investors believe that the robotics industry will usher in a “50-year development period.”Just like the explosion of the Internet industry back then, many influential figures and giant companies were born, and the rise of the robot industry also contains countless opportunities.


Robot, “move”

The Cambrian Period, 541 million years ago, produced a “species explosion” that lasted 20 million years. Today, the fossils of most of the “phylum” animals appeared during this period.

In order to achieve the “species explosion”, certain conditions must be met, such as temperature, humidity, air composition, changes in the earth’s crust, ocean acidity and other factors, all of which are indispensable.

from this angle,The “explosion of species” in China’s robotics industry around 2019 is precisely because of the maturity of the industrial chain, talents and policies, and other natural events.

Back in 2015, under the wave of “double entrepreneurship and innovation”, there was a blowout of start-up companies, but the robotics industry was tepid. At that time, Cao Wei, a partner of LanRun Ventures, had carefully observed and visited many Chinese robotics start-up companies, and finally made the first order in the robotics industry two years later.

Cao Wei believes that at that time, the technological evolution in the field of industrial robots was relatively slow; while mobile and service robots, due to immature industrial chains and scenarios, “still cannot be truly commercialized.”

And around 2019,The maturity of the industrial chain, especially the core upstream industries such as sensors, lidar and chips, has provided sufficient conditions for the explosion of robot species in the past three years.


3D cameras become important sensors for robots | Zivid Robots

From the perspective of the most important sensing components for mobile robots-3D cameras and low-line laser radars, the booming mobile Internet and consumer electronics have directly contributed to a sharp drop in the prices of the two components.

The mobile payment war after 2014.At that time, the two giants Ali and Tencent, in order to compete for the offline payment market, found ISV (Independent Software Vendors, independent software developers) companies to lay a large number of scanning payment devices, including 3D cameras for identification. As a result, the price of 3D cameras dropped sharply in the competition from domestic manufacturers.

Lidar, because of the fierce competition of Chinese Lidar start-up companies during the development of autonomous driving in China for nearly 8 years, the price has dropped from tens of thousands of yuan to 100 yuan. Among them, the popularity of sweeping robot products has also allowed manufacturers of C-end lidar to enter the B-end radar industry, further reducing the price of lidar.

in addition,In addition to lidar, the autonomous driving industry has also contributed another important element to the robot industry-talents. Among the founding teams of many robotics companies in China, there are people who have “changed careers” from the autonomous driving industry.Because in the final analysis, the autonomous driving of vehicles and mobile robots have many similarities at the bottom of the technology, and they are all applications of autonomous driving technology in different scenarios.

The development of technology and the maturity of the industrial chain have allowed robots to evolve from being “difficult to move” to being able to move freely, laying the foundation for robots to truly enter various market segments.


Robots “infiltrate” life

“The future has come, but it’s not evenly distributed.” This famous quote by the well-known science fiction author William Gibson spread throughout the technology circle through the mouth of Kevin Kelly.

It is also quite accurate to use this sentence to describe the current penetration of robots in all walks of life.

With the gradual maturity of mobile robot technology, in addition to traditional industries, automobiles, and consumer electronics, more usage scenarios close to the C-end have gradually matured, such as commercial cleaning, hotel restaurant services, etc.; On the B side, such as industrial logistics, semiconductors, and power battery industries, robots are also gradually emerging.

The following 5 industries can be said to be the 5 most popular scenarios in the robotics track:


At present, most mobile robots are designed with 3D camera + laser radar. The picture shows the commercial cleaning robot of Maiyan Intelligent. |Picture provided by: Maiyan Intelligent

commercial cleaning

The cleaning industry has always been considered “the business of the elderly”. Qin Baoxing, CTO of Gaoxian Robotics, observed that even though it has been difficult to find a job in the past two years, there are still very few people who are willing to be cleaners.

The standard work pattern of a cleaner is: in the early morning or late at night, before or after the start of most days, in the assigned fixed area, repeat the work of sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing.

Guo Lin, the founder of Muniu Robot, gave a general description of cleaning work—simple repetitive labor without personality attributes. “In fact, before we consider whether robots will take away people’s jobs, a more realistic and urgent situation is that more and more jobs like this, no one wants to do.”

According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security’s ranking of the 100 most unemployed occupations in the country in the third quarter of 2022, cleaners ranked fifth.

In the case of insufficient manpower, it has become a consensus in society to let robots replace humans to work. Moreover, compared with human beings, robots can do better in certain positions. Hiring robots can also reduce employment risks for enterprises.

In 2018, Lanchi raised the A-round financing of Gaoxian Robot Company, which was their first investment in the field of robotics. Judging from Gaoxian’s achievements, Lanchi has a good vision-Gaoxian’s current shipments exceed 10,000, and its annual revenue exceeds 1 billion yuan.

Moreover, the potential market for commercial cleaning robots is huge. Qin Baoxing revealed,The penetration rate of robots in the cleaning industry is still very low, “probably at less than 1% level.” In China, the market space of the cleaning industry is at the level of 100 billion yuan.

In June 2021, Maiyan Intelligent entered the commercial cleaning business, focusing on high-end boutique scenes, such as the Sino-Ocean International Center in Beijing. In the view of founder Li Yuhao, the reason why the company can still open up the market is that smart hardware will not be dominated by one company like the Internet, and there is still room for vertical segmentation scenarios. Since its establishment, they have received nearly 100 million yuan in financing.

Li Yuhao believes that commercial cleaning robots have not yet reached the stage where “customers are not considering whether to buy, but which one to buy”, but this matter “will definitely happen within three to five years.”

Warehouse Logistics

From a functional point of view, AGV and AMR handling trolleys also have similar logic. In warehousing logistics, industrial logistics and other scenarios, there are a large number of handling needs.

In the traditional logistics and warehousing link, the work of workers may be depalletizing or handling. This kind of work is high-intensity and highly repetitive. If it is done by humans, first, it will cause irreversible labor damage to people, and second, after long-term labor, work efficiency will decrease.

In contrast,The advantage of the robot is that it can work at a stable frequency for a long time, and can also optimize the workflow through algorithms to improve the overall efficiency.


Juxing Technology’s FlexComet Xiaobailong robot is working in the warehouse. |Picture provided by: Juxing Technology

According to the report of Logistics IQ, the global warehouse automation market will reach 27 billion US dollars in 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 11.7%. This also means that robots still have a lot of room to play in warehouse automation.

Domestic start-up companies such as Jizhijia have become leading enterprises in the low-speed autonomous logistics vehicle market such as AGV and AMR. According to official data, Jizhijia’s order volume in 2021 will exceed 2 billion yuan, and its revenue will exceed 1 billion yuan. The market potential is huge.

More subdivided scenarios, such as depalletizing, palletizing, loading and unloading, etc., still required manual labor before. However, the maturity of 3D cameras and solutions has expanded the capabilities of traditional robotic arms, which can replace manual operations in these links and perform repeated operations. And companies that are deeply involved in the direction of robot 3D vision, such as Mech-Mind, have also received a large amount of financing in recent years, a large sum of nearly 1 billion yuan.

According to Shao Tianlan, the founder of Mecamand, in an interview with the media, the company’s revenue in the first 10 months of 2022 has doubled compared to 2021.

offline service

Take, for example, the labor gap in the food delivery industry. According to the person in charge of Meituan UAV cloud digitalization, at present, Meituan has hired all the people who are willing to deliver food in the first-tier and second-tier cities, but the order has at least 5%-10% growth every year, and the order in one day is good. Tens of millions, which means that there are millions of labor gaps every day.

From restaurant food delivery robots, to hotel service robots, to shopping mall guide robots, commercial service robots may be regarded as the closest robot products to the C-end. Like commercial cleaning robots, there is a huge market for these products.


2017-2024 China Service Robot Market Scale Forecast|Data Source: IFR (International Federation of Robotics), China Electronic Commerce Association, Zheshang Securities Research Institute

According to IFR statistics, the market size of service robots will exceed 30 billion yuan in 2021, reaching 30.26 billion yuan, an increase of 36.18% over 2020, and is in a stage of rapid growth. In the entire robot market, service robots account for 36% of the market, second only to industrial robots.

At the same time, after several years of development, leading companies have emerged in the vertical scenarios of various service industries. For example, in the hotel service robot track, Yunji Technology currently serves more than 20,000 hotels, and has a high market share in the mid-to-high-end hotel market.

In the food delivery robot track, according to IDC According to the data, Qinglang Intelligent occupies a 48.6% share of the food delivery track, and the company is currently valued at 6.5 billion yuan.

semiconductor manufacturing

at the same time,After 2015, the outbreak of smart cars has driven the rapid development of industries including power batteries and chips. And these industries have also become “emerging industries” targeted by robot companies

According to data from the China Semiconductor Industry Association, in 2021, China’s integrated circuit sales exceeded one trillion yuan for the first time, reaching 1,045.83 billion yuan. Among them, the manufacturing link accounts for about 30%, that is, the scale of 300 billion yuan.

Take Youai Zhihe Robotics as an example. The company has been deeply involved in the vertical industry of semiconductors in recent years and has achieved rapid development.

In the past, the transfer of semiconductor wafer segment materials was done manually, or using an expensive “crane” system, that is, rails were set above the factory building, and magnetic devices were used to lift the materials for transportation. The investment was on the scale of tens of billions. Using the logistics robot of UAI Zhihe, the transportation can be completed at a cost of “two orders of magnitude lower”, and there is real-time information tracking.

Youai Zhihe RobotDirector of MarketingGuan Jian revealed that a customer purchased 120 UAI Robots on the first floor of a factory in the Mainland, and the revenue of this order was nearly 100 million yuan. However, the domestic semiconductor industry is still developing rapidly, and the future market prospect is huge.

Power Battery

In 2022, the penetration rate of new energy vehicles represented by pure electric vehicles in the domestic market has reached more than 30%. In 2021, sales of new energy vehicles in China will reach 3.52 million, a year-on-year increase of 160%.

The blowout demand for new energy vehicles has led to the outbreak of upstream industries, the most notable of which is undoubtedly the power battery industry. According to data from the Lithium Battery Research Institute (GGII), China’s power lithium battery shipments will reach 220GWh in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 175%.


New energy vehicle power battery production line|Photo source: BYD

However, even if shipments have nearly doubled, it is still difficult to meet the needs of new cars and traditional car companies for power batteries. Including the Ningde era, all power battery manufacturers have been frantically building factories and expanding production capacity in the past two years.

Guan Jian revealed that a power battery customer once complained that “10 factories were under construction at the same time.”

Different from the semiconductor industry, the power battery industry is more like a traditional manufacturing industry, and the degree of digitization is still very low. “The simplest metal rod for loading and unloading copper foil has different sizes for each household.”

There is no unified production standard, which may be a good thing for the robot entrepreneurial team, becauseAll power battery manufacturers are cooperating with different robot companies to explore more suitable automated production solutions.


Robots “reconstruct” business

If the robots in the past did not move and did not cooperate with humans, now they have evolved to basically move freely and have weaker coordination with humans.andThe future development direction of robots must be mobile and collaborative.

At the same time, we can see that robots evolved on hardware, because of the improvement of their capabilities, are gradually getting rid of the pure tool attributes and are entering the human production relationship.

And when robots are no longer purely a “tool” role, what they can do is by no means “replace human beings”, and may even become an important factor in the “reconstruction” of the future commercial society.

From tools to “collaborators”

When robots begin to enter production and life, people always inevitably worry about whether they will be “robbed of their jobs” by robots one day as a labor force.

But the truth is,Robots are not meant to replace humans. At this stage, instead, the model of “human + robot” is more efficient.

In an interview with the media, Cao Wei once told a story – inA logistics industrial park, he was very surprised, because in the park in the early morning, the staff were still busy working. Due to the prosperity of the e-commerce industry, the pursuit of logistics efficiency has reached the extreme, and logistics employees have to work in two shifts every day until the early hours of the morning.

Because the work is so hard that young people are unwilling to do it, it is very difficult to recruit workers.


Carpenter Ant Robot’s unmanned forklift product|Image source: Carpenter Ant Robot

The carpenter robot company invested by Lanchi is an entrepreneurial team focusing on unmanned forklift products. Its products can autonomously disassemble and transport goods in the park. The unmanned forklift that can operate almost 24 hours a day saves logistics workers a lot of energy.

Although Carpenter Ant’s unmanned forklift technology is constantly evolving, there are still some specific scenarios where manual labor is more efficient. Therefore, the most efficient way to use unmanned forklift products at present is not to use unmanned forklifts, but to complete logistics work with human employees.

The addition of robots is not so much to replace humans, but to let human workers get rid of the tedious basic work and think about which jobs are more suitable for them.

Robots enter the “relationship of production”

If the robot only cooperates with humans in a fixed scene, replaces part of the labor, and improves the production efficiency of some production links, it still has a lot of room for development, but this will not be its end.

Only by going deep into the “workflow” of specific scenarios and playing a role in the “production relationship” can robots truly enter human life.

Taking the commercial cleaning market as an example, when cleaning robots can already clean the floors of public places with 7×24 hours of efficiency, this does not mean that the cleaners who originally mopped the floor have been robbed of their jobs. In fact, they can complement robots. Do tasks that robots cannot do, such as cleaning shelves and toilets.

Gaoxian Robotics is developing a “digital smart cleaning platform” system. The cleaning robot can not only clean the floor, but also sense where it needs to be cleaned through sensors, and notify the cleaning staff through the cloud platform to carry out cleaning work.

This improves the efficiency of cleaning work to a certain extent, because the cleaning staff no longer need to be rigidly stuck in one position, but clean up as needed, saving a lot of time.

Another example, many people have seen the “food delivery robots” in hotels. They can deliver food or drinking water to designated rooms, which saves the time of customer service staff to a certain extent.


Yunji uses the HDOS system to create a closed loop between robots and hotel accommodation services. |Picture provided by: Yunji Robot

Yunji Technology, which focuses on service robots, hopes that its product is not just a “delivery robot”, but also hopes to build a robot-based cloud platform and build a closed service loop.

Taking asking for a pair of slippers as an example, the call made by the guest from the room is given by AI Answering the call, the cloud intelligently assigns tasks to the robot and the front warehouse, and the robot picks up the items from the front warehouse, and then delivers them to the door of the guest room.

Through the robot + cloud system, the former gets rid of the simple execution of some links and becomes an important part of the entire workflow. In such a workflow, humans are not necessarily the most important link. The cooperation of robots and intelligent digital systems can even complete a complete set of tasks independently.

In the past hundreds of years of commercial practice, “people” as laborers are the basic elements of the entire commercial system.andThe addition of robots is reconstructing the past production relationship—when a robot, an object more capable of simple and repetitive work, gradually becomes an underlying business element, it will become a key factor in the “reprogramming” of future business codes.


The direction of robot evolution

Technology doesn’t wait.

The maturity of the industrial chain such as sensors and chips has allowed robots to evolve to mobile and weak collaboration, and to enter various production links such as service, logistics, and industrial manufacturing. The research and development of new technologies is still in progress. They may allow robots to get rid of the constraints of hardware and even the shackles of the core “three major components” (reducer, controller, and drive motor) in the near future, and enter more life in the scene.

And these new technologies are undoubtedly creating new entrepreneurial opportunities in the robotics industry.

Pure Vision Solution: Making Robots Smarter

“Domestic automakers are crossing the river by feeling Tesla, but we are actually crossing the river by feeling Tesla.” Tesla’s problem-solving ideas are also affecting robot practitioners like Qin Baoxing.

As a pioneer in the field of pure electric vehicles and autonomous driving, Tesla is famous for its camera-based “pure vision” autonomous driving solution. Its founder Musk not only firmly opposes the use of expensive accessories such as lidar, but even in Model 3 and Model Y In the model, the common ultrasonic radar is directly cut off.

Mobile robots are in the same line as autonomous driving. If the “pure vision” solution can solve the latter problem, it can theoretically be used in the robotics industry as well.


Heisenberg’s yard service robot takes an all-vision route. |Photo provided by: Heisenberg Robotics

For robots that serve indoors such as cleaning robots, achieving stable and reliable positioning has always been a headache for the industry. Indoors means that satellite positioning is not available, and unstructured and variable scenes such as large shopping malls and factories may cause lidar to be blocked by pedestrians, resulting in degradation of observation.

At the end of February 2022, Gao Xian applied his self-created “top-view visual positioning algorithm” to thousands of service robots. “Pure vision is cheaper and more versatile.” In their view, pure vision solutions will become a general direction in the field of robotics.

The “pure vision” solution can not only reduce the manufacturing cost of the robot, but more importantly, it can make the robot more intelligent in terms of movement and positioning algorithms.

Soft Robots: Reducing Power Consumption and Costs

The traditional industrial manipulator has a less “economical” place, that is, the ratio of holding weight to self-weight (holding weight/self-weight) is too small. For example, if the robotic arm needs to lift an object weighing 1 kg, it must weigh at least 3-5 kg, because the robotic arm is equipped with components such as a base and a motor in addition to the main body.

Innovations in materials science have made possible a new type of robot, the soft robot.

Compared with the traditional robotic arm, the flexible robotic arm can increase its holding capacity and self-weight ratio to 1:2, that is, it can grab 1 kg of objects, and its own weight is only 2 kg.


Due to its light weight, flexible robots can be combined with drones for operations|Image source: Wanxun Technology

more importantly,Soft robots no longer need the core components of traditional manipulators such as motors and reducers.In the traditional robot structure, the cost of motor reducer, encoder, and motor structural parts accounts for about 1/3 to 1/2. Due to the new architecture, the cost of soft robots can be 1/5 or even 1/10 of that of traditional robotic arms.

The value of soft robots lies not only in the fact that it breaks through the “patent barriers” on core components and can reduce the cost of the robot, but also in the fact that new robot forms can broaden the use scenarios. The soft and bendable body is more similar to the human arm, which also makes it have a huge application space in the field of life services in the future.

Due to its light weight, the flexible robotic arm can be combined with many other robot products to expand the robot’s capabilities and use scenarios.

E.g,Combining flexible robotic arms with drones, the latter has evolved the ability to “grab” from simple “delivery” of items.

In addition, in some industrial logistics scenarios, there is already a combined product of AMR+ collaborative manipulator. If it is replaced with a flexible robot, it will undoubtedly make the AMR move more smoothly, reduce power consumption, and reduce costs.



Twenty years ago, the digital age opened by the Internet wave has changed the work and life of the next two generations. After decades of development, the robot industry has ushered in its own inflection point. When the industrial chain and technology are both mature, mobile and collaborative robots have begun to enter a wider range of human production and life.

Through the development of the industry, we can clearly see that robots are getting rid of the image of simple tools in the past, and are beginning to enter the workflow of some specific scenarios. By reorganizing the workflow, local work efficiency can be improved. And along this evolutionary trend, it can be predicted thatRobots will become a key factor in business rules in the future, reshaping future business rules from the underlying architecture level.

In this process, the robot industry contains countless opportunities in the upstream and downstream of hardware and applications, waiting for people to tap and grow together with the industry.

Ewen Eagle

I am the founder of Urbantechstory, a Technology based blog. where you find all kinds of trending technology, gaming news, and much more.

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