Orbbec, a Rising Star in Chinese AI Industry, With Great Challenges Ahead

Technology Author: Yuanpu Huang Nov 26, 2018 08:42 AM (GMT+8)

Orbbec (奥比中光), an AI-driven 3D sensing company based in Shenzhen, won the title of 2018 China Rising Star, a 50-companies list with great growth potential published by Deloitte China. Though, the company will probably encounter great challenges next year.

A few days ago, Orbbec (奥比中光), an AI-driven 3D sensing company based in Shenzhen China, won the title of 2018 China Rising Star, a 50-companies list with tremendous growth potentials published by Deloitte China. 

Indeed, Orbbec has been growing aggresively in the past years. Dated March 2018, Orbbec had 300 employees, and the number increased to more than 500 as of October 2018. In May 2108, Orbbec secured a new round funding USD 200 million from MA Yun (Jack Ma)’s Ant Financial and other investors, at a total value of USD 1.3 billion. Being a unicorn, Orbbec has received substantial attentions from the outside including the government; two senior leaders, and the Vice Chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), have paid visits to Orbbec, which represent great honors in China, considering that the government is in control of national resource allocation. Orbbec, with the recognition and support from CSRC, expects to launch its IPO in the coming 1-2 years.

HUANG Yuanhao (黄源浩), the founder and CEO of Orbbec, has been bustle about greeting the coming visitors and attending various industrial and government conferences; though trivial and time-spending, involving in those business matters are necessary for him and the company. In China, unicorns, especially AI-related unicorns, are the brightest pearls in the eyes of local government officials since Chinese central government has outlined a strategic plan last year of becoming a world leader in AI field by 2030. 

A influence the government's support of AI may bring is introducing Orbbec to its potential business partners. According to the official data, over 2000 companies are clients of Orbbec: they use Obbec’s 3D computer vision products to develop their varied products and applications. Most of them are state-owned or supported by governments. Orbbec's main revenue is generated by authorizing its services to these clients. Particularly, OPPO, a Chinese cellphone maker, has applied Orbbec’s 3D technology on its newly released model Find X, and became the biggest client of Orbbec by far. 

According to an official data provided by EqualOcean's sister website IYIOU in June, Orbbec expected to make revenue of CNY 500 million in 2018, which would enable the company to make a profit this year. But its CEO, HUANG Yuanhao, will not be easy next year. Huang Yuanhao has been well informed that an ascending number of cell phone makers is developing 3D technologies themselves or choosing other suppliers. Huawei is actively developing its own 3D technologies, and approaching the completion; Xiaomi is partnering with Israel-based Mantis Vision, with a 3D technology based on structured light, the same type technology Orbbec is providing. Vivo, using a different time-of-flight (ToF) technology, has reported that it had teamed up with PMD Technologies AG (Siegen, Germany). 

Apparently, a growing number of  companies choosing ToF instead of structured light solution(SLS) makes Orbbec tense and strained while SLS is yet considered as a virgin area for Orbbec. OPPO is the exclusive cellphone maker partner at the moment; Orbbec needs to expand its cooperation with more partners next year, and to establish its core strengths in the mainstream area of ToF technology at the same time. Future will be challenging for Orbbec and Orbbec will have to take the gaunlet again all odds.