Beijing-based artificial intelligence company Megvii, which is known primarily for its facial recognition technology, on Thursday launched Hetu 2.0, an update of its robotic operating system Hetu, which has been used in more than 100 warehouses by different companies since its launch in January 2019, according to a press release of the company.
The move marks a further expansion into China’s logistics sector for the firm, as it ventures beyond its core business.
The Hetu system can now operate and deploy Megvii’s own robots and robots developed by other companies in warehouses.
Megvii also unveiled seven robots Thursday, which are guided by QR codes, lasers, or cameras to move and lift items in and outside warehouses automatically.
For example, the MegBot F1600 robots can move items up to 1,600 kilograms up and down, while the MegBot L2000 robots can transport items up to 2,000 kilograms.
In addition to Megvii, startups such as Lenovo Capital-backed VisionNav and Shenzhen-based Standard Robots are also providing companies in different sectors such as e-commerce and traditional retail with similar robots to reduce labor costs and improve workers’ efficiency, for example by cutting long hours of walking inside warehouses.
Megvii’s new products come at a time when companies in China are applying different levels of automation in their operations following the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new product lineup also comes about one year and a half after Megvii wholly acquired Beijing Ares Robot Technology Co Ltd in April 2018. The company launched Hetu in January 2019 and announced a RMB 2 billion (USD 300 million) investment plan to develop supply chain systems through Hetu.
Megvii also co-initiated the Artificial Intelligence Logistics Industry Alliance on Thursday, with other founding members including SoftBank-backed Geek+, Shenzhen-based HAI Robotics, integrated warehousing solution provider Swisslog, and personal protective equipment maker Honeywell.
“Internet of Things (IoT) in supply chains have already turned to be a key pillar in Megvii’s 1+3 strategy (algorithm platform Brain++ plus Personal IoT, City IoT, and supply chain IoT), and a key engine to pinpoint Megvii’s sustainable growth,” said co-founder and CTO Tang Wenbin, adding that “the company will firmly make long-term investment and deepen its exploration in the smart logistics sector.”