A Skolkovo resident startup was awarded first prize in the Global Happiness Technology Challenge in China last week for its Webot telepresence product.

Webot, a remote presence bot, allows users to observe the bot’s surroundings from their location via the internet, and to interact with people in those surroundings accordingly. It was created by Wicron, a Skolkovo Foundation startup formed by two postgraduate students of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), Dmitry Suvorov and Roman Zhukov.

Members of the Wicron team, which created the winning Webot, pictured outside Skoltech. Photo: Skoltech.

The entrepreneurs won the first prize in the robotics category of the Global Happiness Technology Challenge, an international competition held at the Tsinghua University Science Park and aimed at supporting startups and tech companies whose inventions are capable of changing lives for the better.

“As a result, we began negotiations with Chinese companies regarding localizing Webot robots and selling them in China,” said Suvorov. “We sold one robot right there and then at the event, and reached an agreement with a Chinese company about representing us at Chinese exhibitions,” he said.  

The pair also presented another of their projects at the event: smart children’s beds that have a built-in system for monitoring the child’s condition. The Chinese showed a lot of interest in the project, Suvorov said, and wrote to the head of Skoltech’s Space Robotics Lab, Dzmitry Tsetserukou, proposing cooperation between Skoltech and Tsinghua in this field.

An early Webot made by the Wicron team. Photo: Robocentre.

“Asian countries like South Korea and Japan are leaders in the research and use of robotics,” said Albert Yefimov, head of the Skolkovo Foundation’s Robocentre.

“China has also seen impressive success: it’s the biggest market for industrial robots. Nonetheless, our robotics projects have learned how to break through into these hypercompetitive markets,” he said, citing the examples of Skolkovo resident EydosMedicina, which has sold its robots for helping to train doctors in Japan, and Promobot, which has sold more than 100 of its promotional robots in China.

“The success of our Skolkovo team at the Global Happiness Technology Challenge in China is also part of the overall vector of movement of our innovators to the East,” said Yefimov, adding that aspects of working in Asia would be the subject of a discussion titled “To Asia with your robot” at the upcoming Skolkovo Robotics event on May 20.

Wicron is a resident of the Skolkovo Foundation’s IT cluster. In September 2014, the company was awarded a mini-grant of 5 million rubles ($75,000 at current exchange rates) to work on creating a second-generation Webot.