‘iPal’ ro­bot com­pan­ion for China’s lonely chil­dren

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In this pic­ture taken on June 13, iPal ro­bots by Avatar­mind are ex­hib­ited at the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show (CES) Asia in Shang­hai on June 13. (AFP) It speaks two lan­guages, gives math lessons, tells jokes and in­ter­acts with chil­dren through the tablet screen in its chest — China’s lat­est ro­bot is the babysit­ter ev­ery par­ent needs.

The “iPal” was among a slew of new tech un­veiled at the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show Asia in Shang­hai this week, of­fer­ing ed­u­ca­tion and com­pany for lonely chil­dren and peace of mind for adults.

The hu­manoid de­vice stands as tall as a five-year-old, moves and dances on wheels and its eyes keep track of its charges through fa­cial recognition tech­nol­ogy.

Par­ents can also re­motely talk to and mon­i­tor the chil­dren through the iPal, which is linked to a smart­phone app that al­lows them to see and hear ev­ery­thing.

“The idea for this ro­bot is to be a com­pan­ion for chil­dren,” said Tingyu Huang, co­founder of Avatar­Mind Ro­bot Tech­nol­ogy.

“When a child sees it, he or she will think of the ro­bot as a friend, as another child in the fam­ily.”

Their 9,000 yuan ($1,400) did not dampen in­ter­est from buy­ers watch­ing a per­for­mance of sev­eral iPals danc­ing in uni­son.

“They’re pretty cute. I was just think­ing my own two-year-old daugh­ter would love one,” Mike Stone, a buyer from Aus­tralia said.

China’s young work­ing par­ents of­ten face the bur­den of tak­ing care of chil­dren or el­ders with­out help from a large ex­tended fam­ily, as the im­pact of the coun­try’s decades-long one-child pol­icy lingers. The limit was raised to two chil­dren in 2016.

“I don’t think the ro­bots can re­place par­ents or teach­ers,” Huang said. “But iPal can be a com­ple­men­tary tool to re­lieve some of their bur­den.”

China’s ro­bot mar­ket is also catch­ing onto needs from a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of el­derly “empty nesters” who pre­fer to grow old at home rather than at a nurs­ing home.

Avatar­Mind will soon launch another ro­bot that can talk to se­niors, re­mind them to take their pills and call the hos­pi­tal when they fall.

Bei­jing has in­vested money and man­power in de­vel­op­ing AI as part of its “Made in China 2025” plan. (AFP)

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