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China takes the lead in global robotics industry

(People's Daily Online)    15:47, May 18, 2018

In the 2018 sci-fi box office smash hit“Pacific Rim Uprising,” China is depicted as a global powerhouse of robots and artificial intelligence - a scenario which experts say is destined to be realized in the future, albeit agreeing that further efforts are required to achieve this grand goal.

During the 5th China Robotop and Intelligent Economic Talents Summit held in Zhejiang province earlier in May, over 220 entrepreneurs and 69 leading scholars from 18 countries expressed their hope for China’s future robotic development, as well as signing 24 cooperation contracts worth over $6.78 billion.

“China’s robotic development has entered a new stage, requiring further technological integration among different sectors,” Cao Jianlin, former Vice Minister of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology said during the summit. He further noted that China is emerging as a global leader in AI and robotics, and the country is aiming to move up the value chain.

Development in China’s robotics industry has skyrocketed in recent years, with over 6,500 robotics companies opening their doors in China by the end of 2017. According to statistics issued by the International Federation of Robots, China has already become the biggest global shareholder in robotics, with a net worth of $30 billion.

“China is the world’s most advanced testing lab for robotics. We welcome scientists from all over the world to cooperate together, in an effort to shift dangerous and time-consuming work to robots, so that [humans] can enjoy more of their lives,” Cao added.

Incremental power in service robots

Becoming the world’s largest market for industrial robots in 2013, China has granted equal attention to service robots and has already announced intelligent manufacturing as a key development industry in the country's 13th Five Year Plan. According to Xinhua, in 2017, sales of China’s industrial robots hit $4.22 billion, while sales of service robots totaled $1.32 billion.

“China is now fostering its domestic service robot industry and has made great achievements in this emerging area. There are quite a lot of startups and abundant investments in the industry in China, while these robots can provide a much wider range of services,” Zhang Jianwei, a leading robotics researcher from the University of Hamburg, Germany, told People’s Daily Online.

Chinese-made service robots have fundamentally changed people’s daily life, redefining the concept of AI. This month, China Construction Bank opened the world’s first human-free branch by hiring a robot that can check bank accounts and accept bank cards, while in March, an AI-general practitioner system developed by a Chinese tech firm started an "internship" in a community hospital in east China's Anhui Province.

“Unlike Japan or countries in Europe, which have been developing service robots since the 1980s, China still lags behind when it comes to talent, programs and experience, but thanks to its advanced research ability and powerful hardware manufacturing capacity, China may take the lead in more advanced service robotics in the future,” added Zhang, who noted that it is necessary for China to deepen its cooperation with other nations in the future.

Experts further noted that for service robots with AI, its necessary to “embed” a world outlook, view of life and moral value in future robots, so that they can better serve humans with morality.

“I think within five to 10 years, service robots with the qualities mentioned above will be introduced into our daily life, most likely within auto-driving sectors. Communication robots and home service robots will also possess human-like judgment and morality, which is a future trend,” Zhang added. 

 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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