According to the different reports UBTech Robotics, a Chinese maker of Star Wars Stormtrooper robots that are able to respond to voice commands and recognise faces, is quite close to raise US$400 million in a funding round. The round is being led by Tencent.
As per one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private, if this round is completed, the series C funding round could be valuing the Shenzhen-based company at about US$4 billion.
The funding is still being finalised and details could still be changed.
It will also be among the greatest rounds of fund raising by a consumer robotics firm, underscoring investor interest in backing companies marrying hardware with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, voice recognition and facial recognition.
UBTech commented, while Tencent did not immediately respond to a query.
At present companies are raising funds to boost research and development into AI systems that would enhance everything from companion robots to education and to autonomous cars.
The sector also has attracted interest from different overseas companies, with US mobile chip giant Qualcomm Technologies that is investing an undisclosed amount in Hong Kong-based AI start-up SenseTime Group, which does specialise in facial recognition.
The question is, will this start-up be the next Tencent in the era of AI?
Known for making humanoid robots, UBTech’s latest product is the US$300 Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper Robot that has been created in partnership with Disney. Disney owns Lucasfilm, which is the production company behind the Star Wars franchise.
The Stormtrooper robot is associated with an app for an augmented reality game that permits the user to look through its eyes and command it to launch “raids” through voice command.
The company has started taking orders for the robot and will start deliveries later this month.
Other UBTech products do include the Alpha 1 Pro. Alpha 1 Pro can be programmed to dance, play music and do yoga.
Previously UBTech raised US$20 million in a series A funding round led by Qiming Venture Partners, & US$100 mn in a series B funding round back in 2016, that was led by CDH Investments.
The company claimed it became a unicorn ( the term given to start-up companies valued at more than US$1 billion ) back in 2016.
In July, the company partnered with Apple to sell its Jimu Robot Meebot kit that was aimed at teaching kids how to code and build more robots.
UBTech also has a customer service robot. This robot is called Cruzr that can interact with users to provide directions and information at places such as an airport or hotel.
The company was founded in 2012 by James Chow. The company known as the “father of robots” in China, has plans to introduce a robot that will feature Amazon’s voice control system Alexa, the same system that powers Echo smart speaker of Amazon.
China’s Tencent is leading funding for US educational robot firm’s push into Asian markets.