Business / Technology

Robots ready to offer helping hand at home

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-24 08:12

Robots are becoming an everyday part of life for many, and not just for those working in high-tech factories or on automated production lines.

Shenzhen Okagv Company Limited, for instance, which has been developing industrial robot equipment since 2008, started shifting toward more domestic and household products two years ago.

"The commercial market for household robots is huge, especially for small businesses working in the catering industry, for instance, which like many is facing a major shortage of labor," said Huang Rujin, Okagv's deputy general manager.

The company showcased its latest "robotic waitresses" at the China Hi-tech Fair which opened in the city on Nov 16.

Huang says the robots can walk along designated lanes and deliver food directly to customers, and are already in use in some high-end restaurants.

Okagv sold more than 500 robot waitresses in China last year, each costing around 70,000 yuan ($10,966), and elsewhere to markets including Belgium, Singapore and Canada.

"By providing what we call smart-carriage solutions to restaurants, we have been able to develop a new growth engine for the business," said Huang, adding they helped push Shenzhen Okagv's turnover to 50 million yuan last year.

"Demand for such robots, either for industrial or household use, is increasing fast in China."

The latest figures provided by the International Federation of Robotics show there were 189,358 industrial robots registered as in use in China at the end of 2014, and Huang is in no doubt that demand will continue to rise fast both here and internationally.

Haiying Robot Manufacturing Company, based in Heilongjiang provincial capital Harbin, is already building more than 1,000 automated "chefs" annually, at a cost of 100,000 yuan each, which are targeted at lower-end cafeterias and restaurants.

While Ecovacs Robotics Co, based in Suzhou of Jiangsu province, is involved in the production of robot cleaners.

"Just imagine robots able to do regular housework, but also make a delicious dinner and wash clothes - it's becoming a reality," said Huang Mengju, sales manager of Ecovacs.

During Singles Day on Nov 11 - the online shopping festival created by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd - Ecovacs sold cleaning and purifying robots worth more than 315 million yuan, according to Huang.

"Robot services will become a reality for millions of Chinese and overseas households, as well as help cut the labor forces of the factories that build them."

During China Hi-tech, Ecovacs also displayed its latest intelligent air purifier, which can automatically increase air quality levels according to pollution concentrations.

Its floor-cleaning robots, which cost between 1,000 yuan and 10,000 yuan, already have a 60 percent share of the domestic market, which should help boost its global sales to 3 billion yuan this year, from more than 40 countries, according to Huang.


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