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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chinese Robots 2011

Ping Pong Playing Robot, Zhejiang University
China is still a small robotland compared with it's competitors in Asia, Europe and America. So far only 15 industrial robots are installed per 10.000 manufacturing workers. But this might change quickly in the coming years, when research results will be transferred to the emerging robot industry.

From 50.000 to 1 million in three Years
According to IFR statistics 2011 there were 52,290 industrial robots in China of which approximately 10,000 were in Foxconn factories.  But the company has announced  plans to invest in 1 million industrial robots within three years, aimed to increase productivity and quality in its plants.
Foxcon's parent company Hon Hai Precision Industry plans to mass produce industrial robots as part of its efforts to cope with labour shortages and rising wages. The project, which is initially forecast to cost US$ 223 million (Tw$6.7 billion ), was unveiled by Terry Gou, chairman of the conglomerate, in Oct 2011 when he broke ground for the construction of a research and development unit in Taichung, central Taiwan. 

US Robots Made in China
China is already the center of domestic robotics by manufacturing most of the worlds robotic vacuum cleaners.
Hong Kong based Jetta Company Limited has several manufacturing locations in China and has been manufacturing OEM products since 1977. The company  manufacturers iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaning robots and has recently expanded one of its facilities to increase capacity for the production of Roomba and Scooba robots.
Jetta. Jetta manufacturers also toy robot PLEO and has bought the intellectual property rights and other assets in 2009 after Ugobe has filed for bankruptcy.
Kin Yat Industrial Co. Ltd. has been in business since 1981, has several manufacturing locations in China, and began manufacturing iRobot Roomba 500 series in 2007. 
Japanese Robot Cloned in China
China has quickly adapted concepts from the west including service robot applications for elderly care, social interaction and telepresence. Many projects are very similar to the design from abroad.  At the recent robot exhibition in Shanghai a robot called  UNISROBO was demonstrated that is almost identical to Japan’s NEC PaPeRo robot.
PaPeRo, NEC, Japan
UNISROBO, Unis Corp., CN

Chinese Robots Made in China
Robotics research started in early 70th but very slowly. From 1985 robotics research was supported by the five year national plans. In China robots are categorized in industrial and special robots. Special robots include service robots, underwater robots, military robots, agricultural robots, micro-operation robots. Chinese economy is still in fast developing period, and it is expected that the robotics R&D and its applications will have more progress in the coming ten years in China.
Chinese Robot to the Moon
The chief scientist of China's lunar exploration program, Ziyuan Ouyang, presented at the ICRA 2011 conference in Shanghai details about Chinas plans to to send robots to the moon and
eventually send humans to the moon beyond 2017. China is also considering building a permanent lunar outpost. The design and technical concept of the Chinese moon rover is very similar the NASA Mars rover, Curiosity.

Robotic Car 
Down to earth China is challenged to develop driverless cars. In August 2011 the China Daily reported that a Hongqi HQ3 robotic car with "full intellectual property rights" developed by the National University of Defense Technology, has traveled in daytime, taking only three hours and 20 minutes to finish its trip from Changsha and Wuhan, the capitals of Hunan and Hubei provinces under full computer and sensor control. 
Elderly Care Robot
An even greater future challenge will be elderly care. China has the world's largest elderly population with 159 million people over 60, accounting for 12 percent of its total population. According to a survey by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, more than 10 million caretakers and nurses are needed to attend the elderly population, as most of Chinese elderly prefer to live their retired lives at home.
Shortage of Workers
China's one child policy will very soon result in a shrinking number of workers. According to prof. Chen Xiaoping from University of Science & Technology of China more robots are needed to provide work force to society and for the support in everyday life. There are several projects under way to develop domestic service robots that might help the elderly in the future.  Even here the similarities with projects in Japan and Europe are obvious.

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