Tech media outlet 36kr reported today that Weilan, a startup making legged robots, has completed a Series A1 round of funding valued at more than 100 million yuan (US$13.71 million).
The Nanjing-headquartered firm didn’t reveal the names of the financial backers during the latest fundraiser. It only said it received the funds from state-run market-oriented funds and existing shareholders.
Proceeds from this round will be used to speed up product R&D and production, talent recruitment and supply chain optimization.
In addition to the equity financing, Weilan also has been granted a 35,000-sqm manufacturing facility within a local industrial park as well as 50 million yuan in earmarked funds to support its growth.
All photos courtesy of Weilan
Home and corporate applications
Founded in 2019, Weilan is committed to developing general-purpose robots meant for home and corporate applications.
Its AlphaDog, a flagship quadruped product, came out in March 2021 — its first attempt at commercialization — and sold more than 10,000 units.
According to Weilan, AlphaDog has achieved five core abilities related to motional control, such as self-balance, obstacle avoidance, locomotion, visual perception.
The startup claims its technologies are all developed in-house and filed and obtained more than 100 patents in areas ranging from robotic motion control and smart decision-making to robotic operating system design and robotic joint actuator.
Weilan apparently has set its sights on a foray into the consumer market. It launched a robot dog called BabyAlpha, which bears a resemblance to cartoon figures in animations like “Paw Patrol.”
This robot canine can be deployed to a home scenario for a suite of use cases, such as companionship, education, entertainment, security and intelligent housekeeping.
Weilan told 36Kr that its robot dog has the ability to learn, memorize and express feelings, as it is equipped with the firm’s AgentOS™ smart system, which was a product of two years of research.
Notably, Weilan said it benchmarks against iPhone in building BabyAlpha, adopting the same standards of Apple suppliers. The company didn’t elaborate, though.
Contrary to many manufacturers of legged robots, who deliver their quadrupeds to clients like power grid operator and energy supplier to conduct autonomous inspection, Weilan’s BabyAlpha represents one of the first efforts to target the consumer market, a segment where few had trodden before.
China’s general-purpose robotics industry has moved from the periphery to the forefront of public consciousness. A host of players have arrived on the scene and rolled out their own variants of Spot, the acrobatic robot dog from Boston Dynamics.
Apart from startups like Weilan, Unitree (宇树科技), Deep Robotics (云深处科技), LimX (逐际动力) and Dreametech (追觅科技), tech giants and market incumbents like Huawei, Tencent, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and iFlytek have also ventured into the space and released their own legged robots.
Weilan looks to democratize quadrupeds with the release of its BabyAlpha, ideally selling it to 100,000 households by 2024, so as to make it a “new family member” in the AI era, 36Kr reported.
The firm also has plans to branch out into humanoid bipeds, although it didn’t disclose any timetable for this endeavor.