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The rise of the robots at Expo

AS the Chinese folk song "Jasmine Flower" comes to an end, the audience cheers the Japanese violinist - the humanoid Partner Robot at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai.

Humanoid robots of all shapes, sizes and functions are on display or on the job. They not only play musical instruments, sing, dance and converse, but also cook Chinese food, help with household chores, assist the elderly and carry users at a speed of 7 kilometers per hour.

They can climb up and down walls and their sensors assist in Expo security.

Industrial, non-humanoid robots are also displayed.

Visitors can converse with the robot shaped like the blue Expo mascot Haibao.

"Smile, Haibao," says a boy near the entrance to the China Pavilion.

"Ha-ha-ha," the robot replies.

Haibao also plays "poem solitaire," in which a person recites the first couple of lines of a poem (in Chinese) and he completes the verse.

"With tens of millions of visitors, the Expo will hasten the coming of the robot age to China, because the event is rapidly raising awareness about robots," says Zheng Hongbo, general manager of the robotics division at Zhejiang-based Supcon Research Co, one of the Haibao robot's developers.


More than 30 Haibao robots are deployed at Shanghai's two international airports and at the entrances to major Expo venues. It is the first large-scale use of robots at a public event in China.

The 1.55-meter-tall robots have touch-screens on their chests to answer inquiries in six languages, and they can take photos for visitors.

The cost to produce a Haibao robot is roughly the same as that to produce a medium-range car today - about 100,000 yuan.


The high-tech chef robot is part of a series of cooking robots invented in China. Aike can prepare 24 traditional Chinese dishes with precise ingredients, standardized processing and strict hygiene.

The dishes are appealing, with bright colors, distinct textures and authentic taste that is generally considered acceptable, though the chef lacks flair.

Aike's cooking methods help create a green and low-carbon cooking environment with standardized preparation and processing, cold-chain distribution and non-polluting disposal of cooking fumes.


Nao, the well-known football player, stands 58 centimeters high and weighs 4.3 kilograms.

He can see, hear, speak, respond to touch and communicate, not only with the user but also with other Nao robots.

Developed by Aldebaran Robotics, Nao can sense and avoid obstacles and play soccer. He is a standard robot in one league of the World RoboCup robot soccer competition.

Nao can:

Listen. With four microphones and a voice recognition and analysis system, Nao can listen and understand.

Speak. Nao can express himself by reading aloud any file stored locally in his storage space or captured from a Website with RSS flow.

See. With a set of algorithms to detect and recognize faces and shapes, he can recognize the person talking to him, locate a ball and ultimately much more complicated objects.

React to touch. Nao's sensors enable him to receive information through touch and respond.

Connect. He can communicate in several ways. His eyes allow him to connect to objects in his environment and he features Wi-Fi.


Like the giant warrior guardians at Thai temples, Indrajit greets visitors at the entrance to the Thailand Pavilion. The fierce-looking armor-clad robot stands 3.5 meters high and is the tallest robot at the Expo.

His facial expressions change, he smiles and winks, makes simple movements and explains Thai culture. His armor and skin are made of silicon and are powered, in part, by the breeze.


Palro - from the words pal and robot - has communication intelligence and can hold a spontaneous conversation with humans. He has mobile intelligence for autonomous locomotion.

Developed by Fujisoft, Palro is equipped with a software program permitting extensive functional enhancements. He can play shadowboxing and sumo wrestling, with input programs.


Toyota's Partner Robots have been developed to assist the elderly and enrich the lives of Japan's aging population. They debuted playing drums and trumpets at the World Expo in Aichi, Japan, in 2005.

These violin-playing robots are more sophisticated and dextrous.

There are five robots with different movement systems: Version 1 (bipedal robot), Version 2 (segway-like wheels), Version 3 (segway-like wheels), Version 4 (unique wire system) and the i-Foot (mountable with two legs).

A video shows Partner running, walking and standing with considerable stability. It can move as fast as 7 kilometers per hour, but only on a flat surface.


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