Lit­tle Hero But­ler

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG YING in Shang­hai

wang_y­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Wis­dom­life may

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