Xiaomi appoints new leader for unit behind iconic CyberOne, CyberDog robots

The two gadgets, together with the Xiaomi Robotics Lab behind them, are emblems of the firm's consistent commitment to a "geek" culture and "tech innovation."

Xiaomi Group (小米, HK: 1810) has put Xu Duo at the helm of its robotic unit, in what can be considered as an important move by the internet giant to double down on its robot business, Chinese media reported on March 9.

In a scoop by Jiemian, a financial news outlet, Xiaomi confirmed the promotion of Xu to general manager overseeing its fledgling robot business unit.

Xu will report to Zeng Xuezong, president of Xiaomi’s smartphone arm, and be aided by Xiang Diyun, deputy general manager of the robotic affiliate and his immediate subordinate, Jiemian said.

Meanwhile, Xu will also serve as vice chairman of Xiaomi’s technological committee.

The string of appointments are proof yet again of the importance Xiaomi attaches to innovative ventures, said Jiemian.

Prior to Xu’s new role, Xiaomi’s famous robotic lab was headed by Zhang Lei, who concurrently is general manager in charge of the group’s wearables division.

The decision to hand over the reins to Xu signals the expectation for him to lead and develop the robotic team with greater focus.

Xu’s entry into Xiaomi’s technological committee, a vital internal resource allocation platform, suggests that the robotic unit is being granted more flexibility to access in-house technological resources, Jiemian speculated.

It added that Xiaomi might count on the robotic unit, after receiving wider support, to one day feed back to other business units within the group.

In recent years, Xiaomi has adopted a premiumization strategy, trying to move up the value chain and diversify away from smartphone and consumable wearables.

Typically, the company announced a foray into car making, following in the footsteps of other powerhouses like Baidu and Huawei.

However, the hype around a Xiaomi EV has somewhat faded as the date for mass production and delivery was repeatedly postponed.

Compared to the slow progress in carmaking, Xiaomi has been making tremendous inroads on the robotic front.

Its humanoid robot CyberOne and quadrobot CyberDog made their debut in August 2021.

During MWC 2023, they also came onstage and performed stunts in front of curious international visitors in Barcelona.

For details and specs of these two gizmos, you can check out a previous story by cnrobopedia.

Despite the fanfare surrounding their release, CyberDog and CyberOne are never intended to become cash cows — unlike Xiaomi’s smartphone and wearable divisions — responsible for generating revenue streams or delivering on profitability targets.

Jiemian’s report said the two gadgets, together with the Xiaomi Robotics Lab behind them, are emblems of the firm’s consistent commitment to a “geek” culture and “tech innovation.”

From the perspectives of insiders who spoke to Jiemian, the robots serve more marketing than utilitarian purposes.

This credo was on full display when CyberDog and CyberOne shared the stage with Xiaomi Group founder, president and CEO Lei Jun during his annual speech in 2021, in which the serial entrepreneur reaffirmed the group’s pursuit of tech innovation.

In 2021, the developers of CyberDog won cash rewards in excess of US$1 million, which Xiaomi set up to incentivize engineers.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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