AI firm SenseTime unveils consumer robot that plays Chinese game of Go, as it seeks to fend off US encirclement


By Ann Cao
  • AI
  • Thursday, 15 Jun 2023

Equipped with a robotic arm, a display screen and a board, the robot can cover a wide range of abilities. SenseTime tested the waters in its consumer-facing business last August when it launched an AI robot that can play Chinese chess. — SCMP

SenseTime, the Chinese artificial-intelligence (AI) company struggling under US sanctions, has launched a robot that can play the ancient strategy board game Go, as it continues to seek revenue from consumers.

SenseRobot, which is in the company’s consumer product line-up, is designed to play the abstract Chinese board game, also known as Weiqi. Equipped with a robotic arm, a display screen and a board, the robot can cover a wide range of abilities from entry-level to professional level, according to a company release on Wednesday.

The robot is priced at 3,799 yuan (RM2,453 or US$531) for pre-sale orders, and a premium version, which includes a case and a power bank for players on the move, is priced at 4,999 yuan (RM3,228).

SenseTime tested the waters in its consumer-facing business last August when it launched an AI robot that can play Chinese chess, or Xiangqi, priced as low as 2,149 yuan (RM1,387). The company has not disclosed the sales performance of the product but said it is the top-seller among similar items in this year’s 618 Shopping Festival.

While the company’s total revenue shrank 19% in 2022 to 3.8bil yuan (RM2.45bil), with a hefty loss of 6bil yuan (RM3.87bil), its Smart Life business revenue – where its consumer products are developed – surged 130% year on year to nearly 1bil yuan (RM645.80mil), or about a quarter of the total.

Go, where two players aim to surround more territory than the opponent with black or white pieces, has been a popular space for big tech companies to test the potential of their AI. Alpha Go, an AI program developed by Google-owned DeepMind, became the first computer program to defeat a human Go world champion in 2016.

Instead of a computer program designed to test the limits of the human brain, SenseRobot has a more modest goal – aiming to “bring AI into thousands of households”, according to Xu Li, SenseTime CEO and co-founder, at a launch event in Shanghai on Wednesday.

“Behind the SenseRobot is the huge progress in computing power, extremely high hand-eye coordination accuracy and powerful engineering innovations,” said Xu. “We hope to redefine the future of household robots and bring a new life experience to families.” – South China Morning Post

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