China

China robot event showcases service, sport and dancing robots

A boy looking at a display of robots during the World Robot Conference in Beijing Image copyright AFP
Image caption A nervous glimpse of his future overlords?

The World Robot Conference in Beijing has drawn big crowds to its showcase of "jiqiren", or "machine people", in Chinese.

The country still has a long way to go until it catches up with Japan, among others, but on the evidence of the conference, it is only a matter of time before robots are cooking us dinner and cleaning up afterwards too.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption No match for Lionel Messi just yet...
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Or bothering China's world class table tennis players, but robots are getting better every year

China is already the world's biggest market for industrial robots, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

But many analysts at the conference said the future lay with "service robots", helping out around the home and office.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Robots may lack gender, but some social norms may take more than a technological revolution to die
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Along with industrial production and domestic chores, the robots of the future could also be expert bell-ringers

Robot waiters are already a popular draw at some restaurants and tourists sights in China.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Chicken or fish... or fruit?

In a world of declining birth rates, robots could increasingly keep the young, and old, company.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A toy with a twist, as "Nao" dances to the Chinese song "Little Apple"
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A human tries to beat a nonplussed-looking robot at "rock, paper, scissors"

But despite rapid catch-up, China still lags far behind Asian robot giants Korea and Japan.

The conference also hosted discussions on the opportunities - and perils - of artificial intelligence.

Robotics expert Toshio Fukuda, from Japan's Nagoya University, laughed when asked about the possibility robots might one day become our masters.

"Maybe in 30 or 40 years," he said. "But I'm not worried. I won't still be alive."

Related Topics

More on this story