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China Daily Website

Robots compete in own athletic events

Updated: 2012-07-27 21:39
By Wang Kaihao in Harbin (

While the world waited eagerly for the London Olympic Games to open, about 700 mechanical athletes in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, participated in their own sports carnival.

They came from 70 universities and institutions from all over the country and even overseas to take part in the 14th annual National Robot Competition and China's third International Humanoid Olympic Games, which opened simultaneously on Wednesday in the Harbin Far East Institute of Technology. The events run through Saturday.

Most of the robots are less than half a meter high, and the whole event is like a miniature Olympic Games with machines.

"It is the largest one since its origin," said Hong Bingrong, a professor from Harbin Institute of Technology, one of the organizers of this competition. "We are glad the robots have gotten more complicated and diverse through these years."

Serge Vlassov, a graduate student from St. Petersburg-based National Research University of IT, Mechanics and Optics, leads a four-man group that is participating in several events, including dancing, boxing and racing. It is his second time in the event.

"I am so surprised to meet so many people here since you cannot see such a large-scale national competition in Russia every year," he said while fine-tuning his gadgets. "We have to add to the robots many parts that we invented ourselves and design our own controller."

He smiles and refuses to release which secret part he had just added on.

Even though his team was eliminated early in boxing, he isn't embarrassed.

"The technology is developing, and that's why we can add some item like discus-throwing, which makes a lot of demands on motor coordination among different parts of the robots' body," Hong said.

The competition also added some special events, like pulling cars, carrying trays and collecting trash, Hong said.

"We have to think in advance. The robots will enter our home and do some job in the near future. We had better get prepared for that."

He said the miniature humanoid robot is at the beginning of that new era.

Hong thinks dancing is the most difficult event in the competition since its motion is so complicated. The robots designed by his panel performed on this year's CCTV Spring Festival Gala.

"You will see some even more fantastic dancing a few days later," he laughs.

The country's first robot dancing competition will take place in Fujin, also in Heilongjiang province, and the winner of that competition will get the chance to perform on next year's Spring Festival Gala.

Li Deyi, the chief of Chinese Association of Artificial Intelligence, also attends the competitions.

"It's a good way to combine technology, education, the mechanical industry and entertainment in the competitions," he said. "We can only let the general public know better and accept the wider use of robots when they find robots interesting."