In the realm of 3D visual perception technology, Orbbec (SH.688322) has consistently held a distinguished position globally.
As a company committed to providing high-performance 3D cameras, LiDAR, various vision systems, and ODM/OEM services, Orbbec has constructed a robust technological ecosystem encompassing core foundational elements such as depth engine chips, photosensitive chips, specialized optical systems, along with end-to-end technologies like SDKs (Software Development Kit) and industry-specific algorithms. With a mission to "enable all terminals to understand the world," the company is dedicated to applying 3D visual perception technology across various domains, including robotics, automation, and healthcare, serving over 1,000 global clients and numerous developers.
EqualOcean had the privilege of interviewing David Chen, co-founder of Orbbec, to explore the company's development story and future development directions.
The Story Behind Brand Positioning
Orbbec's brand positioning didn't happen overnight; it evolved over several years. David Chen reflected on the company's initial focus on 3D scanning technology. However, when Microsoft launched the Kinect 1, they recognized the potential of 3D visual technology, igniting their ambition to bring this technology to a broader audience.
David Chen pointed out that Orbbec has several notable advantages compared to its competitors. Firstly, the company boasts a comprehensive team, including optical, electronic, and mechanical engineers, along with its own factory. This self-sufficiency grants them more independence in product development and manufacturing, reducing reliance on outsourcing or contract manufacturing. Secondly, Orbbec doesn't simply follow others. In contrast to other RGBD camera suppliers, their product line spans from low-end to high-end, covering technologies from structured light to binocular vision, and even LiDAR. This allows the company to offer a wide array of products in various markets, meeting diverse needs while maintaining a competitive edge.
Most importantly, Orbbec has traversed a decade in the industry, staying true to its original mission, and focusing on the field of 3D visual technology, amassing rich experience and resources. Currently, Orbbec's production capacity is robust enough to meet market demand. He particularly highlighted the popularity of 3D cameras Orbbec delivered to the robotic and face scanning industry, with the company capable of easily producing 5 to 10 million units annually. Although current sales have not reached that level, the company is prepared to meet potential market demands.
New Product Line and Approach to Innovation
Orbbec has been known for its rapid product development cycle, and David Chen attributes this success to the company's unique approach. He explained that Orbbec maintains R&D and sales teams in both Europe and the United States, which play a crucial role in the company's innovation ecosystem by continuously testing cutting-edge technologies and gathering customer feedback.
In China, Orbbec invested heavily in building a comprehensive in-house team, spanning expertise in optics, mechanics, electronics, and even supply chain management. The company also established its own factory, allowing it to control the entire production process. This dual presence, both in the West and in China, enables Orbbec to develop and deliver products at an astonishing pace. Chen emphasized that this strategy allows Orbbec to adapt quickly to market demands. When high-end products are needed, they are swiftly delivered. When cost-effectiveness is key, Orbbec can provide affordable yet efficient solutions. This flexibility has been instrumental in establishing Orbbec as an industry leader.
Orbbec's reach extends beyond traditional technology sectors, as it has made significant strides in enabling emerging industries such as humanoid robotics and 3D printing.
Regarding robotics, Chen revealed that Orbbec has a strong focus on the field, particularly in collaboration with industry giants like NVIDIA. Their partnership involves integrating Orbbec's hardware vision systems into NVIDIA's robotic platform (Isaac ROS), enhancing the capabilities of robots and contributing to the development of the "metaverse of robots." Chen expressed confidence in Orbbec's ability to make a substantial impact in the robotic sector. Chen highlighted that their vision systems are widely adopted by Chinese robot manufacturers, with a substantial market share of over 70%. In the international arena, several major players have also established connections with Orbbec, despite slower development paces.
In the 3D printing realm, Orbbec's expertise lies in 3D scanning, a critical component of the 3D printing process. Chen explained that their AI-powered 3D scanning technology significantly improves the accuracy and speed of capturing three-dimensional data. This technology ensures high-quality results, distinguishing it from many other 3D scanning solutions available today.
Product Launch and Collaboration with Microsoft
This year, Orbbec introduced three new 3D cameras jointly developed with Microsoft: Femto Mega, Femto Bolt, and Femto Mega I. David Chen provided detailed insights into their potential value and applications.
Femto Mega is a camera with computing power that has garnered interest from numerous research fields. This camera is not only suitable for academic research but also offers customers robust performance with integrated NVIDIA computing chips and Microsoft algorithms, reducing development costs and complexity. It addresses the absence of cameras with computing power in the market, providing customers with more choices.
Femto Bolt, on the other hand, is a relatively simpler product and serves as a Microsoft-recommended alternative in Microsoft’s Azure Kinect Developer Kit (AKDK) product line.
Femto Mega I, with a robust IP65 level shell, further extends the application scenario to industrial grade. It offers real-time streaming of processed images over Ethernet connections.
Furthermore, David Chen discussed the collaboration with Microsoft. Orbbec obtained authorization for Microsoft's AKDK product line this year, which holds significant importance for the company. He revealed that this collaboration was the result of three years of negotiations, and Microsoft chose Orbbec because of its exceptional integration capabilities and design prowess. Orbbec successfully integrated NVIDIA's computing chips with Microsoft's algorithms and provided a rich SDK, making it easy for customers to apply this technology. This not only filled the gap in the high-end market but also handed Orbbec global partnerships, including collaborations with NVIDIA and Microsoft. This will provide the company with more opportunities in the future, including shared sales channels and developer customer resources.
Breaking Stereotypes in Global Markets
Orbbec's global journey has been characterized by adaptability and a keen understanding of international markets. When asked about different market approaches, Chen explained: Overseas companies tend to prioritize product refinement before funding, believing it will secure stable financing. In contrast, the Chinese market's rapid iteration speed allows swift product releases, believing imperfections can be fixed in fast iterations.
Furthermore, performance and price demands vary significantly across markets. In some regions, performance and reliability outweigh pricing concerns. Whereas in China, affordability and value are more important in the fast-paced consumer environment.
Chen discussed two core strategies for success in overseas markets. Firstly, partnerships with industry giants like Microsoft and NVIDIA helped Orbbec expand its reach. Collaborations with such partners significantly improved market penetration compared to independent efforts. Secondly, Orbbec diversified its product matrix, covering a broad spectrum of offerings, from low-end to high-end, catering to various price points and technological requirements.
In terms of customer acquisition, Orbbec employed a targeted approach, identifying potential customers through industry events, social media, and academic circles. Their extensive research on academic institutions and labs helped them connect with key players in the field.
Words of Wisdom for Companies Eyeing Global Expansion
Chen's advice for companies planning to venture abroad was grounded in practical wisdom. He emphasized the need for mental preparation, as international markets can be more demanding and slower to yield results compared to domestic markets. Chen revealed that it took around three to four years before the company started to make a profit. The company was founded in 2013, and it was not until 2017-2018 that the overseas operations began running smoothly. Chen acknowledged the lengthy customer development cycles in the international market as a significant factor contributing to this timeline.
He also cautioned against blindly following trends and recommended a deep understanding of local markets, culture, and language. Chen stressed that successful global expansion requires meticulous planning and a willingness to adapt.
In conclusion, Orbbec's story is one of resilience, adaptability, and unwavering dedication to product excellence. Their experience serves as a valuable lesson for companies aspiring to make their mark in the global market, emphasizing the importance of preparedness, partnership, and persistence.