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January 29, 2010

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Robots man Corporate Pavilion

BELOVED robots R2 and D2 from "Star Wars" may be on the scrap heap of robotics (they're 33 years old), but their successors will be "alive" and well in the Shanghai Corporate Pavilion.

These bots, some very humanoid examples of artificial intelligence, will be able to speak with visitors to World Expo 2010, entertain them, play the piano and even prepare delicious meals.

At the entrance to the pavilion, visitors will be greeted by a highly intelligent robot with the world's cutting-edge technologies, according to the pavilion's organizer.

The 5-meter-tall and 1.3-ton bot will be able to recognize and remember faces, hold a conversation (of sorts) and do jigsaw puzzles. It will be one of the world's most advanced industrial robots, the Expo group said.

While the Japan Pavilion will feature a robot that can play the piano, the Shanghai Corporate Pavilion will show off a robot that can cook.

The restaurant at the Shanghai Corporate Pavilion will serve cuisines from different parts of the country, featuring very different methods of cooking, flavors and ingredients.

Visitors need only press some buttons to select dishes and the robots will collect ingredients, add sauces and seasonings and cook them. Visitors can watch the process before eating mouth-watering delicacies.

That sounds like a dream, but in fact, exhibitions throughout the pavilion will provide visitors with a dream-like journey.

Upon entering, visitors will walk through a long gallery with multimedia showing Shanghai's development from a small fishing village to an international metropolis.

At the end of the gallery, visitors will "meet" a virtual old man and his granddaughter talking about social problems caused by the rapid urban development.

Then the "butterfly professor," played by famous actress and director Xu Jinglei, will appear in the center of the pavilion, guiding visitors to possible solutions to various urban problems.

This will be an interactive section as the pavilion's highlight.

The opening ceremony at the Shanghai Corporate Pavilion will be created by Hollywood director Don Mischer who directed the opening ceremony of the Salt Lake City (Utah) Olympics in 2002 and the Shanghai Special Olympics in 2007. Mischer also will direct the light show that will be performed every night at the pavilion throughout the six-month Expo.

The butterfly, universal symbol of metamorphosis, will be an important symbol at the opening ceremony. The emergence of the butterfly, an amazing transformation, has become a metaphor for the transformation of human behavior that will be required to preserve the Earth, said Mischer.

The opening ceremony of the corporate pavilion will be staged on May 4, the fourth day of the event.

Every night after that, a 15-minute show will be performed on the pavilion's LED facade, telling a story from Chinese philosophy.

The pavilion, nicknamed "The Magic Cube," is funded by around 40 medium and large state-owned enterprises with around 300 million yuan (US$44 million). The 4,000-square-meter environmentally friendly structure is largely transparent and made from recyclable materials.


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