LG and Samsung accelerate robotics investments, eyes commercial and home markets

Daniel Chiang, Taipei; Jerry Chen, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: Bear Robotics

LG and Samsung, eyeing the continual growth of the robotics market, are accelerating their investment efforts in their respective ventures.

While LG aims to strengthen its commercial robot business in delivery and logistics, Samsung is gearing up to debut medical robots amid its organizational restructurings. In LG's statement for their most recent US$60 million investment into a robotics start-up, the company stated that the move is to bolster their portfolio for long-term growth, rather than short-term returns.

LG doubling down on robotics

As reported by Asia Economy and The Korea Economic Daily, LG recently announced a US$60 million investment in Bear Robotics, becoming its largest shareholder. This AI self-driving service robot startup, headquartered in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2017 by former Google software engineer John Ha.

Bear Robotics specializes in creating platforms for service robot software, collective control technology for multiple robots, and cloud computing control solutions. Having gained attention in the industry, the company is currently providing services in South Korea, the United States, Japan, and other regions.

LG emphasizes that the future model for commercial robots will transition to AI-based Software-defined Robotics (SDR). It stresses the importance of standardizing AI self-driving robot platforms, based on an open architecture software platform, to ensure the scalability of service robots.

Through the investment and collaboration with Bear Robotics, LG hopes to rapidly enhance the competitiveness of its robotics business.

In recent years, LG has decisively exited businesses such as smartphones and solar energy to concentrate its resources on promising areas like robotics. It currently operates commercial robot production facilities in Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gumi's LG Future Park.

Since launching guide robot services at Incheon Airport in 2017, LG has introduced various commercial space optimization solutions for delivery and epidemic prevention. Collaboration with Bear Robotics is expected to lead to robot platform standardization, thus lowering market entry costs.

Samsung's household robots

Similarly, Samsung views robotics as a future growth focus, with investments targeting care and home robot markets. In the latter half of 2021, Samsung upgraded its robot commercialization task force to a robot business team.

In addition, the company also acquired shares of collaborative robot company Rainbow Robotics in 2023, with future acquisitions potentially on the horizon.

Samsung also unveiled its robot project "EX1" in 2020. Since then it has been officially named Bot Fit, aimed at assisting the elderly with exercise, with a slated release in 2024.

Initially targeting B2B businesses like nursing homes, fitness centers, and Pilates centers, the company plans to expand into B2C businesses eventually with this product.

At CES 2024, Samsung introduced Ballie, a GenAI companion robot that learns user lifestyles to assist with daily household tasks, home management, and caregiving for elderly family members or pets.

Industry insiders pointed out that the robotics industry, much like the automotive sector today, requires integration from various fields. This includes areas of AI, semiconductors, optics, communications, software, and mechanical engineering, among others.

Robotics extends its reach from manufacturing to commercial and household sectors such as logistics, dining, and healthcare. The advent of GenAI marks a significant leap forward in robotics technology, with more intensified competition expected among major players.

At CES 2024 Samsung's vice chairman and co-CEO said, "Generative AI will serve as an opportunity for all devices, not just robots, to become smarter and further develop."