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November 3, 2009

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Fair showcases robotic future

A future where robots take on the mundane task of doing household chores and freeing humans to indulge in other pleasures may come true at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo's Urban Best Practices Area's eco-house showcase.

A multi-robot system consisting of a robotic butler, a robotic cook, a robotic dish deliverer, a robotic health carer and a robotic educator will cooperate to manage people's life at future family models shown at the Expo.

In addition to the robots, about 180 technologies relating to the Expo will be shown at the China International Industry Fair, which opens today and lasts until Saturday at Shanghai New International Expo Center.

The multi-robot system will be shown at the Expo information and service section to show how robots cooperate to make people's life better and more convenient.

"Previously, a robot just carries out orders," said Yang Jun, director of servant robot department under Shanghai Electric Group Co Central Academe, the project's major developer. "The new system is able to realize interactive cooperation between robots under the administration of a key robot, or a robotic butler."

Under a robotic butler, which can supervise all electric equipment, family environment and control other robots, a health care robot will be able to check on people's health, a robotic cook can whip up dishes for humans and have them delivered by a robot. Children can learn from a robotic tutor.

But "it may take many years to introduce robots to human's real life," Yang pointed out.

However the robotic cook has become the first one to be industrialized and put into the market. Over 40 robotic cooks have been sold in Beijing and Shenzhen since last year. Each costs 300,000 yuan (US$43,924).

"Compared with human cooks, a robotic cook is much more precise and strict in ensuring the right amount of ingredients to go into a dish," said Yuan Can, one of robotic cook developers from Jiao Tong University. "Robotic cooks have been sold to hospitals and armies. We are developing another robotic cook targeting family use at a lower price." It will be completed in about two years, Yuan said.


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