Airwheel to enter robotics business

Posted on 30 Mar 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

Nominally US-based personal electrical vehicle manufacturer Airwheel has announced this week that it seeks to enter the robotics market.

The company, better known for its self-balancing unicycles and Segway-like vehicles, will produce a new robot which heavily borrows from these technologies.

Called the ‘Airwheel S9’, the vehicle functions as both a personal mobility device as well as a telepresence robot featuring ‘artificial intelligence’ technology.

While little is known about its capabilities and specifications, it appears to come equipped with the ability for it to mount a tablet on its front and allow telepresence in home and office environments.

Airwheel has also pointed out that it can allegedly be used as a “mobile home monitor”, though little about how this will work has been revealed.

The first iteration of this robotic vehicle was unveiled to the public at the recently concluded CeBIT expo in Hannover, Germany, however Airwheel CEO Zuo Guogang has suggested the vehicle may not be immediately available on the market.

“We will not launch new products in haste before the related technologies mature. We’ll play it safe, being responsible for both our customers and shareholders.”

Company pivot

The decision to move into the robotics and autonomous systems sector is part of a wider rebranding effort which the company refers to as ‘Airwheel 2.0’.

Within this, the company plans to begin producing personal companions, household service devices and smart home appliances, as well as underwater and aerial systems.

“This is how we will carry on the company, which is also in line with the trend of a smarter society,” said Zuo Guogang.

Innovation vs imitation

While Airwheel is keen to point out its innovations, the company, which relies solely on Chinese design and manufacturing, has in the past been accused of copyright infringement.

Specifically the company was sued by Investist, in a Chinese court for stealing the design of its popular ‘Solowheel’ self-balancing unicycle. In response Airwheel itself countersued.

By pivoting into new technologies Airwheel is likely trying to reinvent itself in new areas to be able to produce its own devices without the stigma of being labelled an imitator.