Is this the droid you're looking for?

16:55, March 30, 2010      

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"And here we have some more jewelry." Xiao Jin in action. (Global Times Photo)

Thought the service economy in China was already pretty bad? Then the introduction of robotic attendants will probably not help your mood much.

For the moment, however, the attractive avatar, who greets shoppers at the Beijing Jin Xi Fu Jewelry store, is merely a novelty attraction, rather than the beginning of a "revolution" in customer service.

Nicknamed Xiao Jin, the humanoid was designed by a Xi' an robot manufacturer and cost the store 400,000 yuan. But although made in China, the droid's somewhat dusky appearance is actually based on an actress in a Xi'an modern Chinese drama team who agreed to lend her likeness to the robot's inventors, the Xi'an Chao Ren Robot Technology Company.

While the actress remains anonymous, her likeness displays her original beauty well enough to the many passers-by who stop to view her. Functions include arm movements, eyebrow-raising, and lip-synched speaking and singing, which are all controlled by staff using a remote control. Manager Wang Qingyong explained that he has been reluctant to deploy Xiao Jin's polite Japanese bow function for fear of unbalancing her, and spoiling the graceful illusion. However, Wang says he has plans for a future robot that can walk and talk, and employ voice recognition services.

While less functional than Honda's better-known humanoid invention, the Asimo, Xiao Jin is definitely more attractive and life-like. "All her hair, from scalp to eyebrows are one hundred percent human," Wang told Lifestyle. "It took a lot more effort inserting these." The eagle-eyed might even spot a few white hairs among her black bun – seems like even robot females have to worry about the signs of ageing.

Clad in fashionable stockings and wearing a stylish, elegant qipao, the robot has already proved to be an eye-catching hit. "Our store has so far witnessed a 30 percent increase in turnover due to her being on display," said a delighted Wang. Indeed, even were the real Xiao Jin to put in an appearance, we suspect even she may not be able to draw as many fans as her "little sister"!

Source: Global Times
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