On November 29, China’s lifestyle services giant Meituan launched the Meituan Academy of Robots Shenzhen (MARS) in the southern province of Guangdong.
Mao Nian, vice president of Meituan and head of the drone delivery unit, will preside as the chairman and dean of the MARS and lead the research and development of Meituan’s robotics research. The academy aims to work closely with leading scientists in the field and highly acclaimed academic institutions to further integrate technology into the industry.
In addition, the academy announced a strategic partnership with the International Digital Economy Academy (IDEA). Together, MARS and IDEA will open a joint laboratory with a focus on urban air traffic systems, urban low-altitude management tools, and digital twin systems of urban air traffic. Such flight rules and other technical standards will better support navigation in low-altitude urban areas.
Meituan’s shift to the world of robotics comes as part of its “retail + technology” strategy implemented in October 2021 to support pandemic-driven demand growth and increase efficiency while controlling costs. Even before the pandemic, however, the e-commerce giant had already begun investing and testing the waters of drone delivery services in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen. Now, as the pandemic fuels demand for contactless services, the market size of service robots is expected to reach a whopping 74.24 billion RMB (10.4 billion USD) by 2022.
“In the life services scenarios, robot technology is an important link between the online information world and the physical world. Service robot technology can greatly improve the efficiency of life services and create a better experience for users. On the other hand, Meituan has rich application fields, which can realize the rapid implementation of robot technology in the field of life service. This is why Meituan continues paying attention to the field of service robots and investing in it,” stated Mao during the MARS launch event.