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Robots get real and trendy in China

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

07-28-2015 15:55 BJT

By Tom McGregor, freelancer based in Beijing

A few decades ago, many sci-fi (science-fiction) novels had depicted robot characters with AI (artificial intelligence). They were built by humans to think and act just like regular folks. The tales qualified as pure fantasies, but that’s no longer the case due to recent robotics’ advancements.

Present-day robots are showing the capabilities to reshape society and the global manufacturing sector, since the life-like devices can assist people at home with chores and could replace many factory workers.

Meanwhile, China faces a rapidly ageing population along with serious worker shortages and rising labor costs. The Chinese economy would benefit from major upgrades in robotics technology.

Accordingly, China is recognized as the most attractive market for the robot industry, partly because Chinese government officials, business people and educators are promoting hi-tech forums and competitions, such as the 19th annual RoboCup held last week in East China.

Hefei says, ‘Hello’ to RoboCup

Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province, hosted the 5-days-long 19th RoboCup to celebrate new advances in the robotics industry. Over 2,000 participants from over 47 nations and regions took part to display their latest and greatest robot models.

Hefei stands ideal to hold special events for the robotics industry, which is home to more than 30 companies that are engaged in the R&D (Research & Development) and manufacturing of robots or robot-related software design.

The University of Science & Technology in Hefei and the Hefei Institute of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have earned remarkable reputations for training future generations of robotics experts in China.

Additionally, Anhui is China’s largest manufacturing center for refrigerators, air conditioners and TV sets.

"To upgrade the city’s manufacturing sector, a lot of robots have already been used by local manufacturers,” Hefei Mayor Zhong Qingjing told the China Daily. “We are only at the beginning of robot development and applications.”

Go shopping at Robo Supermarket

More than 57,000 industrial robots were sold in China in 2014, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Chinese industries have made purchase orders of 400,000 units by 2017.

Consequently, robot manufacturers are struggling to meet growing demand, but there’s good news coming. A ‘Robo Supermarket’ will open in September in Foshan, Guangdong Province in South China.

Here’s a marketplace for incubators and robotics developers to interact with the public, which is situated in the city’s Shinde District, China’s homeland for industrial robotics.

"The supermarket will be conducive to the development of the robotics industry in China.” Yang Yang, general manager of Changsha Chain Robotics Co., told the Shanghai Daily. “It will bring the world’s latest technology into one platform.”

Rethink robotics; rethink the future

The robotics industry is gaining steam in China, but the U.S. market remains the favorite nation for robot developers. Yet, the Silicon Valley is not alone as a hub to attract the hearts and minds of the robot community.

Boston has risen to trendy status for the robotics crowd, since the main campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) resides in the city.

The Boston-based firm, Rethink Robotics, has been manufacturing collaborative robots and is touting China as its most crucial market. The hi-tech company has placed a robot model named, Sawyer, on the market, which comes equipped with a single arm to fit into smaller workplaces.

"We expect a significant portion of volume (sales of Sawyer) will be in China,” Jim Lawton, the company’s chief product and marketing officer, told IndustryWeek Website. “They’re pursuing this very fast.”

AI robots are coming and it’s time for acceptance

Today’s robotics developers in China are striving to build robots that can improve the quality of life for all people around the world. They hold a vision to upgrade efficiency on factory floors while reducing labor costs with the introduction of more industrial robots.

Leading innovators of the Chinese robotics industry are bringing sci-fi-style AI robots to life in order to benefit all of humanity.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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