Little Hero Butler
Like Baymax, the inflatable star of Disney’s Big Hero 6 animation film, Wisdomlife may not have the coolest-sounding name for a robot, but he sure knows a few cool tricks for an electronic butler.
In fact, he may be the best thing you’ve woken up next to for a long time.
He can give morning calls, open the curtains, brew coffee, make toast, cook rice, alert you to the weather forecast and even double as a security guard by triggering an alarm in the event of a break-in. Because he is connected to the Internet, he can also support long-distance video or audio calls. Not bad at all.
“This robot can be of great use to families with small babies because the parents can monitor their children’s movements even if they are far away,” said Liu Yiqing, the marketing manager of Flyingwings Intelligent Robot Technology (Shanghai) Co Ltd, which makes Wisdomlife.
The diminutive white robot — he measures 38 centimeters tall — was exhibited at the recently ended China (Shanghai) International Technology Fair.
He can also provide information about the stock market, advise on nearby restaurants, tell stories, sing and chat, making him user-friendly for people young and old, Liu said.
Headquartered at Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Pudong, the robot manufacturer started mass production this year. Output at its plant in Kunshan, which lies about an hour’s drive away in Jiangsu province, is designed to max out at 200,000 units per year.
China’s changing demographics, including a shrinking working-age population and an aging society, lend themselves to a scenario where robots are increasingly in demand.
“The populations of more cities are starting to grey as urbanization continues pellmell, so it’s only natural that robots are starting to make up the shortfall when human labor is in short supply,” Liu Jinchang, a researcher at the Ministry of Science and Technology, was quoted as saying by Hebei Daily.
By 2050, the
population aged over 60 will reach 500 million, a significant growth from 200 million at present, according to Xinhuanet.com.
Although China’s robot density still lags behind that of other major economies, the market is growing rapidly.
In 2013, China became the world’s biggest robot market with 36,560 industrial robots sold. Moreover, statistics from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) show that between 2008 and 2013 the total supply of industrial robots in China increased by about 36 percent a year on average.
“In fact, China could easily be 40 percent of the global market today,” Gordon Orr, director and chairman of McKinsey Asia, wrote on his blog.
The IFR forecasts that China will have more robots operating at its production plants by 2017 than any other country due to growing automation in the automotive and electronics industries, as well as the need to combat wage inflation.