Li Ming, a former senior executive at Xiaomi Group, announced recently via his personal Weibo account that he had resolved to venture into the robotics sector.
The new venture, named Letianpai (乐天派), or “born optimist,” is focused on desktop robotics, combined with AI technologies.
Letianpai also has closed an angel funding round valued at 19 million yuan (US$2.76 million) at a post-money valuation of 150 million yuan, invested by Li Wanqiang and Shenzhen Liantai Huijia Capital Management, a private equity financier, tech media outlet 36kr.com reported on April 13.
Founded in August 2022, Letianpai will start out providing small-sized desktop robotic gadgets capable of conversing with and entertaining the user.
The gadget, which Li said will make its debut in mid-May, will also come with the popular ChatGPT generative AI technology to function as a personal assistant.
According to Li, who is Xiaomi’s nineth employee, Letianpai’s products aim to supply users with more convenience in life and work.
“The value of robots is to provide practical service, rather than entertainment alone,” said Li.
For this purpose, Letianpai’s inaugural release will be designed more for geeks and tech buffs, as Li and his team decided to give the device an open-source system.
This means it is scalable, open to customized reconfiguration by the users themselves.
Li is also a firm believer in the commercial value that can be unleashed by innovations such as ChatGPT. He emphasized on several occasions the immense practical value of combining AI and robotics.
Once he remarked on Weibo that “the core value of robotics lies not in its size or appearance, but in the value it can deliver to users in real-life scenarios after blending with AI.”
Li’s decision to begin by building desktop robots is based on his insights. He said the average person spends the most of his or her time a day at the desk, say, as much as eight to 10 hours.
“In this scenario, AI-powered robot has huge room to serve users,” said he. “Aside from providing entertainment, company and interaction, the robot should be an assistant, taking the initiative to offer services and tools, such as enabling ChatGPT-like conversation.”
Prior to founding Letianpai, Li worked in different roles at Xiaomi, having served as general manager of its user platform, deputy general manager at Xiaomi’s large home appliance unit, senior product director of Xiaomi ecosystem, and Xiaomi TV operational director.
With rich experience in product development, branding and user engagement, he led the team in building Xiaomi smart locks, MI vacuum cleaners, fridges, washing machines and more.