Alibaba’s AI research arm has started a project to put service robots into hotels starting in October, while its car-to-home AI services will become available to drivers in the nation next year.
The hotel robots will perform chores like delivering meals and taking laundry to guests, who will be able to communicate with the robots via voice command, touch and hand gestures.
Standing less than one meter tall, the robot moves about at the speed of one meter per second. It is powered by AliGenie, the same software that powers Tmall Genie, the smart speaker developed by Alibaba.
Alibaba A.I. Labs, which designed and developed the new robots, aims to have the machine deliver “lightning quick responses” by incorporating multi-sensor data functionality and parallel computing.
With the robots, hotels may expect enhancement in service efficiency. “The robot will be the ultimate assistant for hotel guests who want everything quickly and conveniently at their fingertips,” said Lijuan Chen, general manager of Alibaba A.I. Labs.
The robot is equipped with a semantic map, autonomous navigation system for obstacle identification, communication systems for elevator control and facial recognition technology for identity verification.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, the global market for service robots is on the rise. The market is expected to grow 20-25% in the period between 2018 and 2020, while the sales forecast during the period is around US$27 billion for the professional service segment.
After a trial in a hotel, Alibaba will assess the robot’s suitability for other areas like hospitals, restaurants and offices.
Tmall Genie Auto
Following the unveiling of the robot, Alibaba A.I. Labs also announced Tmall Genie Auto, which will be available next year. It is the company’s latest initiative in smart mobility and expanding the Tmall Genie ecosystem.
Tmall Genie is the most popular smart speaker in China, with over five million units sold since its launch in 2017. It ranks number three in total shipments in the global smart speaker market.
Tmall Genie Auto was developed in partnership with Sweden-based Volvo Cars. As a car-to-home AI service, Tmall Genie Auto allows drivers to monitor and control smart home devices from their cars. They will be able to check the humidity, temperature, lighting and air conditioning status at home.
They may also turn on and off smart appliances, including heater, air conditioning, door lock and air purifier. With the “home model,” when drivers are 10 minutes away from home, smart appliances will be “readied” for their arrival while they are still in the car.
Over 90 appliance brands have signed up with the Tmall Genie ecosystem, enabling over 600 smart appliances to be connected with the car-to-home AI service.
Tmall Genie Auto also supports voice control for different tasks, such as identifying nearby attractions and restaurants, booking hotels and movie tickets and ordering take-out food.
China Takes AI Lead in APAC
According to Tractica, Asia Pacific (APAC) is poised to be one of the leading regions for AI development within the next decade. China is taking a leading role in APAC, having announced a bold and ambitious plan to make the country a global AI leader by 2030, creating a US$150 billion market for core AI technologies.
China is the primary driver for AI in the APAC region, but Japan, Korea, India, Taiwan, and Singapore have all announced national AI strategies, focusing on their own niche areas of strength whether it is in software, hardware or services, helping advance APAC as a leading player in AI.