Startup Rokid is making a bid in the smart home device market, backed with recently with $50M in funds from Advantech, a Chinese investment firm. Rokid’s AI is named Melody, as Amazon’s is names Alexa. Rokid’s egg-shaped voice-controlled devices are named Alien and Pebble. Alien comes with a camera and visual display. Alien is a learning device, and can serve many users in a family individually. General Manager Tami Zhu participated in this interview with AI Trends:
Q. Please tell us a little about the history of Rokid and your funding to date.
A. Rokid Rokid Corporation, Ltd. is in the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) category. The company was founded in July of 2014 with headquarters in Hangzhou and a research lab in Beijing, China. In July 2015, Rokid expanded to the U.S., opening its U.S. headquarters in San Francisco and a year after, established its Silicon Valley research lab. The global staff of over 100 features over 20 PhDs and more than 30 Master’s holders, which include prominent scientists, engineers, and business leaders with expertise in artificial intelligence, robotics and manufacturing.
Here is how we have been funded:
August 2014 – Rokid received angel funding with the participation of IDG Capital Partners.
July 2015 – Rokid closed Series A funding led by Walden International
November 2016 – Rokid secured Series B Funding in excess of $50M at a $450M valuation. Rokid’s Series B funding, which was led by Advantech ranked #8 largest AI funding deals in the world.
Q. Can you explain some of the core technologies that Rokid Alien has embedded in it, and whether these were custom developed or used or acquired from 3rd parties?
A. We build the entire full stack of hardware and software technologies in house. Rokid core technologies include: front-end audio signal processing, far-field voice recognition, noise cancellation, spoken language analysis, language interaction algorithms, and multi-channel digital microphones. Rokid offers a wide array of open APIs to build an ecosystem for 3rd party developers. With these open APIs, 3rd party developers can tap into the company’s core technologies. Rokid’s key differentiators include:
Multi-channel Communication – Rokid’s synthesis of AI, voice, face, touch, and gesture recognition, sound, and light represent a new level of interactivity.
Unparalleled Multi-Language Capabilities – Rokid is the only company that supports English and Mandarin, and allows users to seamlessly switch between the two languages using only a simple voice command. Rokid also understands and accommodates a broad spectrum of accents across both English and Mandarin. Beyond this, Rokid’s framework and software design allow easy and rapid scalability for other languages in the future.
Powerful Home In-Sync Technology – Rokid’s products are the only product on the market that is able to bridge the calendars of all family members. In addition to managing each user’s calendar events, Rokid can synchronize the calendars of all family members, allowing them to check schedules and add new events.
Unique Voiceprint Coupled with Artificial Intelligence – What really separates Rokid and makes it award winning, is its voiceprint technology coupled with artificial intelligence. Instead of initializing the product to discern things like how many people are in the household, who each one is and what the relationships are to each other, Rokid recognizes the users via voiceprint and continual learning using artificial intelligence.
Elegant Industrial Design – Designed by a team of in-house premier designers, Rokid conveys the consistent theme of futuristic design, warmth, and technical elegance.
Q. How many patents has Rokid developed through this product development?
A. Rokid has over 400 patents pending worldwide, and over 100 patents granted. The patents cover all core technologies including front-end audio signal processing, far-field voice recognition, noise cancellation, spoken language analysis, language interaction algorithms, and its multi-channel digital microphones.
Q. Please explain your current business model.
A. In the U.S. Rokid sells direct to consumers through online and offline sales. In China, Rokid sells online through a partnership with Alibaba and offline as well in over 100 retail stores in major cities. Rokid’s main revenue stream comes from a per unit sale price of total quantity sold. Rokid’s accomplishments, partnerships and brand reputation will attract customers.
Q. As you sell directly to consumers, how many Aliens have been sold to date?
A. Rokid sales have been very successful in China. However, we aren’t able to share numbers at this time.
Q. What are the particular demographics of our consumer base to date, and what are your plans to expand that?
A. The demographics of Rokid’s Alien consumers are technophiles, early adopters, avid users of mobile apps, social media enthusiasts, music enthusiasts, gadget lovers, news junkies (financial & tech news), and have the interest in the latest development of consumer technology.
With the introduction of Rokid’s mobile product Pebble, the company will expand its consumer base further broadening the adoption curve.
Q. Do you see different market segments evolving over time throughout the world (America’s, Europe, PanAsia, etc.)
A. Rokid definitely does. Our vision in the future is that we can offer our AI technologies globally. For now, our primary focus is in China and then the U.S.
Q. Do you plan on licensing your software technologies?
A. As mentioned, Rokid offers a wide array of open APIs to build an ecosystem for 3rd party developers. With these open APIs, 3rd party developers can tap into the company’s core technologies.
The content is original to AI Trends.