China’s NetDragon Has a New Robot CEO—and North Texas Ties

When the University of North Texas launched its NetDragon Digital Research Centre in 2018, it saw great things for the future. But one thing it may not have foreseen: Last week NetDragon—a Chinese mobile and online gaming developer—appointed an AI-powered virtual humanoid robot as its "Rotating CEO."

A virtual humanoid robot in China may have North Texas on her mind—because she’s supposed to know everything about the company she now leads.

On Friday, NetDragon—a mobile and online gaming developer based in Hong Kong—appointed “Ms. Tang Yu,” an AI-powered virtual humanoid robot, as the Rotating CEO of its flagship subsidiary, Fujian NetDragon Websoft Co., Ltd.

By putting a virtual humanoid at the top of its C-suite, NetDragon said it aims “to pioneer the use of AI to transform corporate management and leapfrog operational efficiency to a new level.”

NetDragon helped launch a research center at UNT in Denton

Making the Mean Green “eagle claw” at the 2018 launch of the UNT NetDragon Digital Research Centre. [Photo: Michael Clements/UNT]

One of the many things the robot CEO has on her plate is right here in North Texas.  Since 2018, the UNT NetDragon Digital Research Centre has been part of the Division of Digital Strategy and Innovation at North Texas State University. 

NetDragon’s founder and chairman, Dr. Dejian Liu, provided $500,000 in startup funding to launch the center and provide seed money for initiatives, with the check coming from Digital Train Limited, one of the many companies he owns.

At the 2018 launch, UNT President Neal Smatresk said the center aims to enable faculty and students to “develop next-generation technologies.”

“The centre will support digital-first researchers from all disciplines who may make discoveries with the capability of revolutionizing industry,” Smatresk added in the statement.

The center currently has four focus areas: multimedia learning; AR/VR/AI/Adaptive; technology and pedagogy in physical spaces; and accessibility and inclusion.

More on NetDragon’s UNT connections a bit later. First, about that robot CEO…

NetDragon’s virtual robot CEO is part of its embrace of the metaverse

Dr. Dejian Liu, founder and chairman of NetDragon. [Photo: UNT]

NetDragon’s founder, Dejian Liu, says the new virtual robot CEO is no joke. She’s part of his company’s embrace of what the future will bring, today.

“We believe AI is the future of corporate management, and our appointment of Ms. Tang Yu represents our commitment to truly embrace the use of AI to transform the way we operate our business, and ultimately drive our future strategic growth,” Dr. Liu said Friday in a statement.

The virtual robot CEO represents NetDragon’s”AI + management” strategy, and is seen as a milestone in the company’s mission to be a “Metaverse organization.” It’s already known for its “massively multiplayer” online games.

Virtual robot CEO to-do list

Ms. Tang Yu has actual tasks—and NetDragon spelled them out.

“She will streamline process flow, enhance quality of work tasks, and improve speed of execution,” the company said. She’ll also serve as a “real-time data hub and analytical tool to support rational decision-making in daily operations,” while enabling a more effective risk management system. She’s also expected to play a critical role in the “development of talents and ensuring a fair and efficient workplace for all employees.”

One thing to remember: NetDragon’s virtual robot CEO is virtual. The image at the top of this story is just we imagine her. So far, the company hasn’t released a physical image that represents Ms. Tang Yu.

Expanding on the algorithms behind robot CEO

“Looking forward, we’ll continue to expand on our algorithms behind Tang Yu to build an open, interactive and highly transparent management model as we gradually transform to a metaverse-based working community,” the chairman added

Dr, Liu sees his new robot CEO as a key workforce attractor, at a time when tech workers are in demand nearly everywhere.

Ms. Tang Yu “will enable us to attract a much broader base of talents worldwide and put us in a position to achieve bigger goals,” he said.

2019 U.S.-China Smart Education Conference was held in Denton

UNT MBA students Charles Laws and Michelle Schodowski won the UNT Ed Tech Ascend pitch competition at the U.S.-China Smart Education Conference. sponsored by a NetDragon subsidiary. [Photo: by Michael Clements/UNT]

NetDragon’s founder was a keynote speaker at the fourth annual international U.S.-China Smart Education Conference held in Denton, the first time the conference was held in the U.S. 

The three-day conference explored state-of-the-art technologies in education, including the latest “smart education devices.” It featured national and international experts transforming education through intelligent technologies including AI and augmented realities.

The conference’s title sponsor was Edmodo, a NetDragon subsidiary and “global learning community” offering a communication and collaboration platform to K-12 schools. At the time, Edmodo had over 90 million registered users in more than 400,000 schools across 192 countries.

A “Shark Tank”-like event called the Ed Tech Ascend Pitch Competition was a key conference attraction. UNT MBA students Charles Laws and Michelle Schodowski won the competition’s top prize—a $20,000 check—for their early-stage Denton-based startup Radda, “an online service that facilitates the seeking and giving of musical advice while fostering valuable connections among artists across the globe.”

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