On June 17-20th, the first ever TechCrunch: China conference took place in Shenzhen, at the Shekou I-Factory. The main reason for holding a company in Shenzhen in addition to the events previously held in Shanghai and Beijing is the booming tech scene in the city, which has gone on from producing electronic products for foreign companies, to becoming a greenhouse for hardware startups that is completely unique in the world, and has given our city the nickname The Silicon Valley of Hardware.
Makeblock was a proud sponsor of the event, and founder and CEO Jasen Wang took part in a panel discussion together with entertainment media company The Makers’ Chen Ru, on the state and future of robotics technology. This is a brief recap of the discussion between Wang and host Yu Du, Associate Editor-in-Chief at TechNode.
Opening the talk by presenting Makeblock to the audience, Wang told, “In the past, we’ve focused on the overseas markets and we provide a relatively complete product-line for STEAM education. We can even claim to have the most complete line of products in the educational robotic industry as we now have robots, a modular drone and a building block product (Neuron), etc.”
Following this, Jasen proceeded to unveil a new focus for the business: entertainment.
“Since we are mainly active within the field of education, in addition to the development of educational products, we have a brand-new business, called the MakeX Robot Challenge, beginning this year. We aim to create top-level competition events for primary and secondary schools,” Wang said.
Another new turn for the Makeblock business was announced at the conference is a shift of focus from business-to-business (B2B) to business-to-consumer (B2C): “B2B currently makes up the majority of our business but we believe B2C has more potential over the long term, and we are now entering the B2C market by providing strong B2C-oriented products, e.g. modular drones as well as Neuron, the electronic building block platform.”
So how does Makeblock plan to reach out to a new type of customer? It is through a retail-focused strategy that may seem unusual for a technology company, but has proven successful for prominent players including Apple and smartphone manufacturer OPPO. “We are expanding our business into the B2C market. We now have point of sales at airports and book stores as well as some online retail stores. We are also trying to develop our offline bricks-and-mortar store system,” said Jasen.
Finally, what is Jasen Wang’s vision for the future of robotics technology? “I believe that it’s still too early for robots to be part of everyday life. Certainly, we already have relatively sophisticated industrial robots. I know that many companies are trying to make home assistant robots which, as the name suggests, would help families with chores. But imagine a very simple scene where a glass of water is on a table. Ask the robot to fetch it to pour the water into a cup. Most robots available on the market aren’t able to do it, and robots currently being developed in laboratories may barely be able to. So there’s a long way to go for robotics technology from the lab to everyday life, currently being limited by technologies including AI, voice recognition, interaction and mechanical and electrical integration.”
Following this train of thought, Jasen directly tied the development of the robotics industry to the mission of Makeblock.“The past few decades has seen rapid development in IT and software. However, such development cannot be singularly attributed to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but is owed to the increasingly number of young talented people who have entered the industry. In my view, programming is now relatively easy for anyone to learn. Once robotics is seen as equally easy to learn, build and program with as developing apps and creating websites, I believe this industry will take off in a similar way to the software industry.”
That’s all for this year’s TechCrunch Shenzhen. We hope to see you here in Shenzhen in 2018!