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The new Chinese entrepreneur forging a robot-shaped future in Europe

Chelsea Chen, Co-founder of Emotech Ltd at the Cannes Lions Innovation session on Monday, June 19 2017. (Pic by Nicholas Short)

When Chelsea Chen stepped off a plane in London three years ago, she had a mission: to create the world’s first AI-run robot with personality.

Not long after, on a summer’s day in July 2014, her vision was set in motion: Chen, together with fellow entrepreneur, Hongbin Zhuang, founded Emotech Ltd., a London-based robotics start-up that explores relationships between humans and technology.

Since its conception, Emotech has gone on to create Olly, a robot with a brain-inspired AI operating system.

Chen felt that a move to the UK, which is globally renowned for its AI R&D, could give Emotech its best chance at global success.

All about Olly

Because of Olly’s AI engine and deep learning capabilities, each one is unique. Olly’s personality has been designed to develop around its interactions with its owner. Chen believes that it is this very feature that will make owners fall in love with their Olly.

Chen says; “I think the beauty of Olly is that Olly is the first robot with personality. Before Olly, there was no technology that could give the consumer highly personalised communications. You would always get the same answers. But Olly, based on your personality and life patterns, can give you individual answers and manage your personal timetable proactively, allowing you to concentrate on the things in life you want to enjoy.”

Emotech have won four CES Innovation Awards for Olly this year, and were most recently featured on the Cannes Lions Innovation stage alongside PHD APAC CEO, Susana Tsui, discussing whether our future is robot shaped, and what the implications of AI are on the marketing and advertising world.

(From left) Chen with Susana Tsui, PHD’s APAC CEO, who hosted the session “Is the future ‘robot shaped’?” at Cannes Lions Innovation session on Monday, June 19 2017 (Pic by Nicholas Short)
Migrating innovation

Whilst Chen’s story is not that dissimilar to that of most Chinese entrepreneurs, her vision is. Not too long ago, the majority of Chinese entrepreneurs found themselves leaving their homeland behind for inspiration abroad, only to return home at a later stage and try and apply their experiences and products to the Chinese market. Today, however, the story could not be more different, and Chen is a perfect example of this.

Chen was born and bred in China, where she headed up the Social Marketing department at OgilvyOne from 2010-2013 in Beijing. Although China is undoubtedly the thriving hub of technological growth, competition is fierce, leaving limited room for newcomers.

Armed with her experiences and understanding of tech and AI in China, Chen felt that a move to the UK, which is globally renowned for its AI R&D, could give Emotech its best chance at global success.

What this shift represents is a change in where the world sees its innovation coming from. Whilst great entrepreneurs have always existed in China, they have only recently begun to start applying their learnings from China in the West, and this trend looks only set to continue.

The West has a lot to learn from China, and it is the likes of Chen and Olly who will be determining our (robot-shaped) shared future.