Story Highlights

Rice Robotics Limited

Meet the ‘Intern’  

Whether robots can replace humans has always been controversial. Hong Kong-grown start-up Rice Robotics, which focuses on developing automated robots, believes that the rise of robots will not be accompanied by the fall of humans. “The objective of developing robots is not to replace humans, but to complement human labour and be used as a collaborative partner,” says Sophiya Chiang, the company’s Head of Product and Technology.  

Through the accelerator programme, a robot ‘intern’ called ‘Portal’ has been sent to patrol around Central Market. On the surface, it is a patrol robot. But, in fact, it can collect different environmental data and make up for the lack of front-line personnel so that the property manager knows at all times what’s going on and what’s wrong with the environment.  

Experience matters  

Though Portal already has other ‘internship’ experience in other shopping malls, she says there’s still a lot to learn from working at Central Market. “Each shopping mall is different. The robot has to navigate different places and corners to experience different scenarios and optimise the performance.”  

“In one instance, it rained heavily outside. Customers walked around with wet umbrellas. The bad weather caused a large amount of stagnant water. The mall operator asked whether Portal could detect stagnant waters so that the cleaning staff could dry them quickly. That experience inspired us to develop rainwater sensor at the bottom of Portal to prevent accumulation of stagnant water.”  

“For this deployment, Chinachem Group has been working closely with us. Apart from detecting pedestrians with fever, checking whether they are wearing masks, and assessing indoor air quality daily, Portal was also invited to participate in the Halloween party at Central Market. He shuttled through the crowds and narrow passages.” 

“Though it encountered many challenges on that mission, the data collected allowed us to optimise his detection and performance capability in the future. By collaborating with Chinachem Group, we managed to take the performance of our robot to another level.”