Artificial intelligence within the real estate industry has largely manifested as predictive analytics, proprietary algorithms or chat bots that can vet and convert homebuyer and seller leads. Now, the industry is closer than ever to taking the next step in AI: real-life robots.
Juwai.com, a Chinese international real estate website, is partnering with Singou Technology of Macau to roll out a line of Mandarin-speaking robots called “Butler 1” that can be used by real estate agents and developers to assist in office interactions. The partnership will meld Singou’s AI engine and Juwai.com’s data analytics. Their exact role? That’s yet to be determined, but expectations are high.
“We are taking it one step at a time,” says Carrie Law, CEO of Juwai.com. “In the future, it’s easy to imagine that agents will have such powerful technical tools that they will seem like superheroes, but that day is still quite some time off.”
Currently, Juwai.com is focused on building out this project in the form of a pilot program, which will gather data for the AI engine with the goal of increasing the robots’ AI capacity and developing the product for mass release.
“We hope to learn the practical things so we can ensure the robots can be most helpful,” Law says. “It’s also important to collect data on the kind of phrases and questions that are asked. This will allow the AI engine behind the robots to work better with consumers and on behalf of agents and developers.”
To start, these robots could be used within the real estate office setting to provide support to Mandarin speakers.
“The robots are really designed to help offices that don’t have a Mandarin speaker,” says Law. “In offices that do, the robot could assist the receptionist in greeting Mandarin speakers until the Mandarin-speaking agent or salesperson can come and take over.”
Juwai.com is thinking on a larger scale for the long term. If mass-produced, these robots could even be offered as assistive devices for elderly U.S. homeowners for about $2,000 each. The company plans to market these robots as tools for monitoring senior individuals who live on their own, in case of emergencies, break-ins or home maintenance needs.
“They are not on the market yet, so we are not ready to release the full details but imagine a situation in which a solitary elderly person has a health emergency and falls to the floor in their home,” Law says. “No one is there to notice or call for help. The robot could do so. That could be the difference between life and death for the homeowner.”
While the specifics are not yet available, Juwai.com is planning on releasing the first batch of robots at international property industry events and to offices over the next 30 days through its pilot program. Participating countries include Malaysia, Singapore, the U.S., Australia, Canada and the UK. Partnering brokerages have not yet been named, but Juwai.com predicts that a few hundred Chinese real estate robots could come to the U.S. by the end of 2019. if demand is high enough.
While many fear AI for its developing capacity to take over human interaction and employment, Juwai.com reassures the public that these bots are intended to be used as supporting technology, rather than for replacing agents or salespersons. Will this innovation threaten the niche that many multilingual or bilingual agents have worked hard to carve out? If these robots become mainstream in real estate and are developed with the skillsets to communicate in various languages, they could level the playing field for bilingual and monolingual agents.