Mobvoi, a 4-year-old Chinese technology start-up with a large following in China, has global ambitions for its smartwatch, which is barely a year old.
On Tuesday, Mobvoi — which has raised $75 million in financing to date and is Google's mobile tech partner in one of the world's biggest markets for smartwatches — is launching a global edition of its Ticwatch 2, the second generation of a version currently available only in China.
Mobvoi is gearing up a Kickstarter campaign for the four models of its device, which will offer an early bird price of $99 and $129 for a version with a plastic or oak/leather band, respectively — a bargain when compared to Apple Watch, which starts at around $300. The first version of the watch launched last year, and quickly became China's best-selling Android-based smartwatch, the company said.
The device's second-generation version is billed as an interactive smartwatch powered by artificial intelligence technology that responds to touch, voice or gesture. The Ticwatch also has its own operating system and possesses a range of features like voice activation, interchangeable watch faces and wireless charging.
Mobvoi's crowdfunding campaign, which will run for nearly two months until shipments begin in late September, is part of a strategy to become China's version of Apple. In a recent interview with CNBC, founder and CEO Zhifei Li, explained that the company intends to offer more than just the sum of its smartwatches.
"Basically the mission of Mobvoi is to define the next generation of computer interaction using AI technology, which means we are trying to find all kinds of scenarios where AI might be useful," said Li, a 40-year-old who specialized in artificial intelligence at Johns Hopkins University, and used to work for Google as a research scientist.
"Mobvoi is not positioning itself as a wearable company only," and toward that end has plans to offer a range of AI-powered products eventually.