Caixin
Oct 23, 2017 06:53 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Segway-Maker Ninebot Wins Financing for AI Drive

The artificial-intelligence efforts of Ninebot Ltd., the Chinese manufacturer of the Segway, has won support from the Chinese government, which selected the firm to help draft standards for self-balancing transportation systems. Above, 9-year-old Rayen Koan rides his Segway in Los Angeles in December 2015. Photo: Visual China
The artificial-intelligence efforts of Ninebot Ltd., the Chinese manufacturer of the Segway, has won support from the Chinese government, which selected the firm to help draft standards for self-balancing transportation systems. Above, 9-year-old Rayen Koan rides his Segway in Los Angeles in December 2015. Photo: Visual China

Ninebot Ltd., the Tianjin-based manufacturer of the popular Segway two-wheeler, has raised $100 million for robot and short-distance transportation development projects.

Providing the financial support was the China Mobile Innovation Industry Fund and a fund managed by SDIC Innovation, Ninebot announced on its website.

Artificial intelligence (AI) projects are also on the agenda at 5-year-old Ninebot, which purchased the U.S. developer of the one-person, two-wheeled Segway vehicle in 2015 with financial support from Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc.

Other Ninebot investors include the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and U.S. chip-maker Intel Corp.

Ninebot’s personal transportation business is called Segway PT (which stands for “personal transportation”), and Segway Robotics, which includes AI initiatives.

The personal transportation unit encompassed Segway Discovery, which offers two-wheeler rentals in tourist areas, resorts and urban districts worldwide. More than 1,000 Segway rental outlets are operating globally.

The company recently unveiled its first consumer-market robot, Segway Loomo, which features an AI system with speech and hearing functions so that the machine can interact with people.

Ninebot’s AI efforts have won support from the Chinese government, which selected the firm to help draft standards for self-balancing transportation systems.

Wan Gang, who heads the Ministry of Science and Technology, signaled the government’s interest by visiting Ninebot’s Beijing office last week, the company said.

“As the government has invested heavily in the (AI) area, many startups and big corporations are also committing to building their own AI systems,” Wan said. “Ninebot can also contribute to that.”

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)

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