Business / Technology

Bright market prospect for China's service robotics

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-11-25 10:22

BEIJING - Shi Zhongzheng, 5, excitedly gripped his badminton racquet as he delivered a serve to his opponent - a small black robot making measured moves across a demonstration court.

As the shuttlecock descended, the machine deftly slid across the court, dexterously flicking its racquet to return the serve.

"So cool!" Shi exclaimed.

The robot played tirelessly for most of the day as passers-by at the World Robotics Conference in Beijing stepped on the court to test their meddle.

"It's so wonderful that it responds so swiftly. It can even play doubles!" Shi said.

The three-day event is filled with wonders of modern technology - from robots that can handle daily necessities such as taking care of children or delivering food to highly precise models capable of conducting surgery.

Currently, the global market is dominated by industrial robots, which account for 80 percent of the market share. However, in the long term service robots will become a huge industry, Chinese vice president Li Yuanchao said at the opening of the conference on Monday.

During the Singles' Day online shopping holiday last month, sales of a vacuuming robot was listed as one of the top ten online home appliances purchased during the event, Li said.

Facing the duel problems of an ageing population and shrinking labor pool, China is seen as a promising potential market for service robotics.

Machines capable of making life easier for seniors were of particular interest to Mr Xiong, 82, and his wife, who requires a wheelchair.

"Hopefully scientists will develop more robots able to work as care takers for elderly. We will certainly consider buying one if it is small enough and with an acceptable price."

Sun Ye, president of Shanghai Kuailu Investment Group, said that the company has recently invested in a robotics program in anticipation that service robotics will become a mainstay for Chinese families in the future.

"Currently, our investment is still focused on the development of industrial robotics. However, the application of robotics is gradually extending from such industries of automobiles and electronics to the service sector such as medicine," he said, "the market of service robotics will surpass that of industrial robotics in the future."

Xu Xiaolan, vice president of the Chinese Institute of Electronics, said China has been rapidly improving development of service robots. "Many restaurants have used robots and the vacuuming robots have been gaining popularity among Chinese consumers during the past two years," she said.

Chinese researchers have already mastered technology for the whole industrial chain of service robotics. They have developed various service robots, including those capable of cleaning, cooking, and helping the elderly and handicapped.

Ni Jian'an, an official with the robotics development department of Intel Corporation, said the market of service robotics is expected to grow by 25 percent annually in the Asia-Pacific region, of which China will be a main contributor.

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