[Xinhua]RoboCup shows industry dreaming of more than electric sheep

  • [2015-07-22]

    HEFEI, July 22 (Xinhua) -- The ongoing 19th RoboCup in central China's Anhui Province is rebooting interest in robotics in China.

    The five-day world tournament, which will run until Thursday in the provincial capital Hefei, has brought together 2,000 participants from 47 countries and regions to not only compete, but also test and showcase developments in robotics.

    Goocoo Robot Industry Share Holding Co. Ltd., headquartered in Hefei, brought along the new iteration of its pioneering model "Kejia", a service robot designed by the University of Science and Technology of China. Kejia won the 2014 Service RoboCup, and after a year of fine-tuning and updating, she is ready to compete again this year.

    "Our company was involved in the real estate sector, but we took a leap of faith and changed to robot production at the end of last year. We are confident in the potential of the emerging intelligent robotics market," said Chen Gang, deputy general manager of Goocoo Robot.

    Chen added that the company had not yet begun large-scale production of service robots.

    "Service robots are just too expensive for use by the public at the moment. Our products are mostly bought by restaurants or event firms," he said.

    Goocoo Robot has a restaurant in Hefei where 20 robots serve customers, and other establishments are slowly following suit.

    Earlier this month, Foshan City in south China's Guangdong said it would open a robot market in September, the first of its kind in China. The market, which will exhibit and sell robots, will also have robot sales staff.

    Chen said human assistance robots need to become more affordable in the future, and then families and hospitals will be more inclined to buy them.

    China's robotics market is mainly industrial robots. Last year, some 57,000 industrial robots were sold in China, up 54 percent annually. This accounts for 25 percent of the global robot market.

    Rising labor costs and the central government's new industrial development strategy have resulted in more interest in industrial robots.

    The Made in China 2025 plan, announced by China's cabinet, in May, outlines strategies for switching from low-end manufacturing to value-added production, with numerical control tools, robotics, aerospace equipment and new energy vehicles all identified as areas to be developed.

    According to the International Federation of Robotics, China's industries will have purchased 400,000 robots by 2017.

    Han Bin, sales manager of Efort, a Hefei-based industrial robot producer, said that the number of robot producers in Hefei has increased from five to 30 in the past 12 months alone.

    Zhang Qingjun, mayor of Hefei, said that the municipal government would push for the development of the robot industry through government procurement, and by providing favorable financing policies to robot producers.

    The RoboCup's popularity and the number of investors drawn to the event, shows that in China businesses are dreaming of more than just electric sheep, said analysts.

    Xinhua, 2015-07-22, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-07/22/c_134436837.htm

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