A few weeks ago, a recruitment announcement of LEADERG Inc. appeared on the Internet. Questions popped out in my head like series of bullets: Since when did Taiwanese companies start working on Gundam? Do we have experts in this field? As compared to several-story high Gundams in Japanese Mangas (comic books), or the famous 18-meter high Gundam model displayed in Odaiba, Japan. This 3-meter model seemed modest and made us interested. Thus, we set up an interview with LEADERG to check out what they are were doing.
When we actually entered this company, we saw some employees using their computer and testing the robot in a clean office, instead of a gigantic factory or anything of that kind. The founder and president Ming-Ta Li told as that LEADERG is a A.I. Robot Design House. They aim to find A.I. solutions to problems in industrial and domestic settings. For now, their revenue comes mainly from sales of machines and robots designed for the semiconductor industry, mainly wafer factories and IC package / testing factories.
Besides, LEADERG applies the techniques to help the Ministry of National Defense of Taiwan design weapons. For example, their military robot, LEADERG G1 Gun Fire Control System (GFCS) can be seen in 2015’s Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition.
Today’s robots can be categorized into more human-like (humanoid) robot and machine-like robot. Humanoid robots are more flexible and capable of handling more complex tasks. However, they tend to be slow. If the task is speed- or accuracy-demanding, machine-like robot would be the choice.
As for the recruitment announcement, Li told us that the Gundam Project was an extension of the G1 Gun Fire Control System. They want to add a structure for human being to sit in and control the system, planning to use excavator or similar equipment with hydraulic system as the base of their Gundam. They consider a 3-meter tall robot is more executable because of practical constraints.
Useful high-level robots
According to Li, the demand for entertainment robot is different from the ones that can help people practical ways.
“There are two kinds of robots that people will stick to. The first one is robots that earns money for you. For examples, the need for transport robot or assembly robot that can work for 24 hours is always there. The second type of robot is the ones that save you time. Robot Vacuum cleaner can be an example. People would also stick to this kind of robot but to a less degree than the first one. You have to considerate the ‘sticking point’, that’s what I learned when visiting Silicon Valley two years ago.”
Part of the revenue of LEADERG comes for money-making robots. “Before making robots, I have done auction Applications, which was nominated in 2012’s DEMO CHINA as finalist. However, in the final presentation, we were questioned that the APP had no technical innovation. Now, we focus on high-tech semiconductor industry with few competitors. Like what I often said to my colleagues: ‘we don’t make student-level projects’.”
Industrial robots are changing the industry
In the industry, we see three groups of people in the robot industry. Entrepreneurs ask companies like LEADERG for solution to reduce personnel costs. However, labors can lose jobs because they are replaced by robots.
“In the industry, the trend is to reduce human workforce. We see that the cost of robots are getting lower and lower. However, there is still a limit for the time being. This still prevents many companies to use only robots in factory.” In the near future, robots will be taking care of the work on production lines. The operators will be in charge of robot control and maintenance.
LEADERG is dedicated to providing solutions to make in-factory labors’ life easier. They design automatic work system and in-factory labors can now spend their time monitoring the production process. In-factory labors will also be responsible for maintenance and management. “The problem we are facing now is the price. Factory owners often decline our proposal of solution project because of the high cost.”
Industrial robot or entertainment robot?
When talking about the entertainment robot fever on crowdfunding platforms, Li believes that this is related to the goal of different companies. “The long-term goal of LEADERG is to be a listed company with the share price higher than 1,000 NTD. To achieve this, our service and product have to be highly profitable. Entertainment robot is hot now. However, we need to build a platform and our brand to be highly profitable in the long run.”
“Most Taiwanese robot companies or machine providers focus on machining. Very few of them boost innovation and design that can beat other competitors in the world. Among them, one example is Hermes Microvision (HMI), a company that makes machines for wafer factories TSMC. They invest a lot on research and development Therefore, they earn high revenues because of their leading technologies.”
Open source Robot SDK and Robot Cloud service
“LEADERG’s revenue comes from advertising, software authorization and cloud service. We know clearly that making electronic components and equipment is not highly profitable.”
To achieve the goal of becoming a listed company, LEADERG now focuses on content, open source Robot Software Development Kit (SDK), Robot Cloud service, and robots. First of all, they provide content on social media and try to make money from advertisement. Robot SDK is a open source project but LEADERG charges companies for commercial usages. Robot Cloud service requires monthly fees for users. Finally, they always work on robot development. “There’s a limit if we only do hardware. We hope that other parts will account for 90% of our revenue in the near future.”
Open source SDK and cloud service for robot is not common in the industry. Li considers this the core competency for LEADERG. They took Amazon’s AWS cloud service model as reference and try to get money from subscribers. Their goal is to make these service the most-widely used in the world. “We want to make it big. Cloud service and software is really the trend, whether in machining or equipment designing. I think that our experience in robot and machine design serves as basis for our success in the future.”
LEADERG agrees to collaborate with Taipei Exchange and KPMG to use a new fundraising platform founded by Taiwanese government. Li considers this preparation for getting listed in the future.
Heading for the future
“Robot is my passion. Besides this, I really want to help other people in my life. A person has only two hands to help. From agricultural machinery, automatic system in bio-tech industry to industrial computer, mobile embedded system and set-top box and now LEADERG, I am always working on making people’s lives easier with machines and robots. This will in turn free people to do other things to help even more people.”
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