How robots are shaping tomorrow's world

Updated 2017-08-25 10:31:42 Xinhua
A visitor experiences a bionic arm installation during the World Robot Conference 2017 in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 24, 2017. During the 5-day event, people came to Beijing Yichuang International Conference and Exhibition Center, experiencing the technology of robot and the possibility of future life.

A visitor experiences a bionic arm installation during the World Robot Conference 2017 in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 24, 2017. During the 5-day event, people came to Beijing Yichuang International Conference and Exhibition Center, experiencing the technology of robot and the possibility of future life.

Imagine it. You wake up in the morning and your robot housekeeper makes your bed, cooks breakfast and cleans the floors. Minutes later a driverless car whisks the kids off to school, while a robot nurse cares for you elderly parents. You arrive at the office only to find robots have done half of your work.

Such thoughts were once the stuff of science fiction, but robots are increasingly taking part in the real world.

MEET ALPHA 2

"Hello, Alpha, I'm back."

"Hello. Welcome home," says Alpha 2, while automatically switching on the lights, air-conditioner and television.

Voice-controlled humanoid butler Alpha 2 has been charming crowds at the ongoing 2017 World Robot Conference in Beijing.

Created by Chinese firm UBTech Robotics, Alpha 2 is able to do anything from housework and finding weather reports to dancing and reading children their bedtime stories.

"Robots are important in providing companionship and service at home," says Li Zhen, general manager with UBTech's brand department. "For the elderly who find it difficult to fetch a remote control or switch on the air-conditioner, these things can be done by robots."

Once pure fantasy, intelligent machines are becoming increasingly common. In the future, family-friendly Alpha 2 will have even more functions.

DELIVERY ROBOTS

In another booth at the exhibition hall, Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com is displaying its robot courier and drone. If used widely in the future, it will reduce costs and raise efficiency in the logistics sector.

The company uses a white robot courier, weighing around 200 kg, in at least four universities, according to Zhang Zhitong, senior manager with JD.com's PR department.

The robot courier is capable of avoiding obstacles and mainly used in urban areas. For remote rural areas, JD.com is developing drones that can deliver packages by passing through mountains, rivers and forests.

Zhang says that dozens of drones are being used in the city of Xi'an in Shaanxi Province, and the city of Suqian in Jiangsu Province. Last month alone, more than 3,000 orders were delivered by drone in Suqian.

China's logistics costs accounted for 14.9 percent of GDP in 2016.

"The ratio was significantly higher than developed economies," Zhang says. "Lower logistics cost will have a great impact on Chinese society."

Some worry the robots will cause workers to lose their jobs, but Zhang disagrees.

"The technological revolution will not lead to unemployment. It will push people to adjust to new jobs. Delivery workers can learn about managing and maintaining robots or flying drones," he says.

HEALTHCARE ROBOTS

While parcels can be delivered to your hand by robots, a robot known as Bestic can even feed you with a spoon.

Developed by Sweden-based Camanio Care, Bestic acts as a human arm to feed the user, mostly the elderly or those with difficulties using their arms or hands. It can increase meal-time independence and allow users to enjoy meals in their own space.

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