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中国造意念控制机械臂在 Kickstarter引发轰动

当别人跟我说,有一种“机械臂可以用意念控制,超级精确并且配有激光”时,我脑海里首先闪现的是终结者和G型神探。但是,中国的一个新创企业向我们证明,这真的不是一个科幻故事。

Dobot的首席执行官Jerry Liu在接受采访时说,“我们一直致力于硬核机器人研究。”

去年夏天,Jerry和他的五人团队离开了他们所在的业务范围甚广的中国工业医药机器人公司,组建了Dobot公司。他的五人团队均是山东大学的毕业生,联合创立者们的目标是制造一个价格低廉、操作精准的机械臂,供业余爱好者、教育者和相关从业者使用。

众筹带来的好运气

去年,Dobot团队在深圳度过了大部分时间,建立了第一家Dobot公司,去年六月开始设计设备,十月份开始生产原型,随后在漫长的冬天进行调整、重新设计,并最终在今年春天晚些时候设计出了可以投入生产的样品。

虽然Dobot团队的目标是尽可能低地定价,但是他们并不满足于比保险费和建设费还低的定价。Jerry说,“我们想要制造一辆能像法拉利跑得一样快但却是在“中国制造”的汽车。

Dobot公司创立一年之后,他们的团队就有了工作模型。他们用他们的积蓄以及在初始阶段募集到的15万美元为该项目注资,之后,他们决定9月15日在Kickstarter上推出一个众筹项目,目标筹集3.6万美元的资金。

项目上线4小时之后,Dobot就募集到了5万美元。项目上市之后,Dobot就已经募集到了将近18万美元,而他们的活动直到11月份早些时候才会结束。

为什么Dobot会快速取得成功?

为了得到一套Dobot的装置,Kickstarter支持者至少要花费399美元,因为399美元是购买该设备的最低购买金额。截止目前,Dobot公司已经收到了四位热衷粉丝的支持,他们都选择了4500美元的投资选项,其中包括十套Dobot机械臂。

为什么Dobot得到了源源不断的支持?从Kickstarter的评论中我们不难看出,是创建者激发了机器人编程人员、创业初期的制造商和技术爱好者的热情。

评论人员也来自各行各业,有期待能够使枯燥的实验室实现自动化的测验的科学家,也有对激光蚀刻画感兴趣的艺术家。对于突然出现在Kickstarter评论页上的每个问题,Dobot团队都十分有条理地进行逐一回答,这个举措无疑给了那些对购买机械臂感兴趣但是仍有困惑的卖家购买机械臂的信心。

Dobot最大的卖点之一就是,控制源广泛,并且可以没有限制地进行定制。电脑、手机APP、输入的手势甚至是脑电波都可以控制Dobot。

“我们创始人之一的专业特长是生物传感器,认为用意念控制机器人是一件很酷的事儿,”Jerry说。“用意念控制机器人并不很难执行。”

销量之大引人注目

Jerry还表示,Dobot的一大目标受众就是教育机构。因为绝大部分中国大学买不起高质量的机器人来给学生们使用,Dobot是“一款用来教授原理、函数,展示行业机器人发展的完美教学用具,”

Dobot将在11月4号结束众筹环节,打算在今年年末完成订单的装运环节,Dobot也同时在寻求更多的外部投资。

“我们将会审慎考量资金来源,选择跟我们一样热情、干劲儿足,并且最具包容性的投资者,”Jerry说。“我们是热爱制造机器人的工程师。”

When I hear “mind-controlled super-accurate robot arms with lasers on them,” the first things to flash through my mind are Terminator and Inspector Gadget. But, as one Chinese startup has proven, this tech is a lot more science than fiction.

“We have been life-long hardcore roboticists,” Jerry Liu, CEO of Dobot, tells Tech in Asia.

Last summer, Jerry and his team of five Shandong University graduates left their jobs at various Chinese industrial and medical robotics companies to form Dobot. The co-founders’ goal was to build a cheap, precise robotics arm that could be used by hobbyists, educators, and industry alike.

Crowdfunding luck

The team spent much of the last year in Shenzhen, building the first Dobot. They designed the device last July, churned out the prototype in October, tweaked and redesigned through the winter, and had a model ready for production by late spring.

While they aimed to keep the price as low as possible, the Dobot team didn’t want to settle for anything less than premium accuracy and construction. “We wanted to build a made-in-China car that would run like a Ferrari,” says Jerry.

A bit more than a year after Dobot was founded, the team had a working model. Having funded the project to that point with their own savings and US$150,000 raised in a seed round, the team decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign on September 15. Their goal was to raise US$36,000.

Four hours after they posted the project, Dobot had raised more than US$50,000. As of publication, the company has raised nearly US$180,000, and their campaign isn’t set to end until early November.

Why Dobot took off

Hundreds of Kickstarter backers spent at least US$399, the minimum purchase to receive one Dobot device. The company has even seen four particularly passionate observers cash in on the US$4,500 Kickstarter option, which includes 10 Dobot robotic arms.

Why was there such an outpouring of support for Dobot? If Kickstarter comments are any indicator, the founders were able to tap into an eager pool of robotics programmers, garage-based makers, and tech enthusiasts.

Commenters range from scientists looking to automate boring laboratory tests to artists interested in laser etchings. The Dobot team has also been methodical about personally responding to each question that crops up on its Kickstarter comments page, a move that has surely encouraged buyers who were interested in purchasing the device but wanted a few clarifications.

One of the biggest selling points for Dobot is that it is open-sourced and infinitely customizable. It can be controlled by a computer, mobile app, gesture input, and even brain waves.

“One of our founder’s expertise was in biosensors, and thought it’d be cool to control a robot with concentration,” says Jerry. “It was not hard to implement.”

Selling big

Dobot is aiming to sell many of its devices to educational institutions. A good number of Chinese universities cannot afford to purchase high-quality robots for students’ use. Dobot is “a perfect pedagogical tool for learning principles, functionality, and development of industrial robots,” says Jerry.

Dobot will end its crowdfunding round on November 4, and aims to ship orders before the end of the year. The company is also looking for more outside funding.

“We will carefully consider funding sources and choose the most compatible investors who share our passion and motivation,” Jerry says. “We are engineers who love building robots.”


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