Coffee bot: OrionStar's 5G robots target service, convenience

The post-pandemic world is shaping up to be a lot quicker to embrace robots.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

On the heels of a laudable epidemic control program powered by its robots, OrionStar, a robotics firm backed by Cheetah Mobile, is turning its sights aggressively to service. Using Qualcomm technology, the company has added 5G to a line of service robots targeting restaurants, cafes, and the home.

The debut came at Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai 2021, notable in itself as the first in-person GMSA event since the pandemic began. The robots are the 5G Robotic Coffee Master, the Restaurant Service Robot, and the 5G HomeBot.

"OrionStar's robot products embedded with Qualcomm Technologies' solutions exemplify how both 5G
and AI can provide immersive experiences for customers through robotics, while also enabling smarter
efficiencies for multiple verticals and industries," said Dev Singh, senior director, business development,
and general manager of robotics, drones and intelligent machines at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
"Qualcomm Technologies' robotics platforms and solutions are leading the way in the creation and
enablement of powerful, secure, and intelligent robots, reshaping the way the world thinks about, utilizes
and interacts with robotics technologies."

Early in the pandemic, OrionStar, deployed robots in China to help guide preliminary diagnosis and treatment, primary disclosure of medical information, and fixed-point delivery of medical supplies in hospitals. The robots, donated by Cheetah Mobile, have been deployed in Chinese hospitals, including Peking University Shougang Hospital, Beijing Haidian Hospital, Wuhan Vulcan Mountain Hospital, and Zhengzhou's Xiaotangshan Hospital.

Orion Star's epidemic prevention and control program, powered by robots, aimed to reduce the workload of medical staff and reduce the risk of infection by using robots to undertake a large number of simple but labor-intensive processing tasks such as pre-diagnosis, house inspection, and delivery. Following human instructions, the robots are designed to collect, store, and transmit data, photos, and videos concerning health barometers, including body temperature measurements.

The new service robots target a post-pandemic era during which contactless transactions and automation in realms like retail and grocery delivery are the new normal. Consumer reactions to automation seem to have shifted during the pandemic as robots become a useful tool for safe customer interactions.

The 5G enabled coffee bot utilizes 3,000 hours of AI learning and 30,000 hours of robotic arm testing and machine vision training. The company says it can make and serve up to 1000 pour-overs per day. The restaurant service robot delivers delivers to four tables on a single trip and up to 600 trays per day, achieving 99.99% accuracy, according to the company. 

There are other robot concepts similar to these, though the story here might be how well OrionStar is capitalizing on the moment. Anyone who's had the daily specials read to them from behind a plastic face guard can attest to how odd the scenario feels. In that paradigm, a robot doesn't feel so far afield. 

OrionStar's utilization of 5G is also of a moment as China moves swiftly to deploy its network. China has established 718,000 5G base stations, accounting for 70% of the global share, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China. Robotics, including cloud robotics, is one of the sectors poised to benefit from the global 5G rollout.

In short order, OrionStar has become one of China's stars in the automation sector. According to the company, as of March 2021, Cheetah Mobile and OrionStar have deployed more than 16,800 AI-driven service robots, which have served over 200 million people and completed more than 8.2 million voice interactions daily. The robots have been adopted by more than 2,000 organizations and used in over 20 scenarios, including epidemic prevention and control, smart retail, and smart public transportation.

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