China prepares for market launch of robots attending lone elderly 2009-04-25 12:46:51   Print

    HARBIN, April 25 (Xinhua) -- A 1.6-meter tall robot with twinkling eyes may soon become the best friend for lone elderly people, as Chinese scientists make the final sprint toward its market launch, said a senior researcher on the robot project here on Saturday.

    "We are working on testing the precision functions and ways to reduce the cost in preparations for an anticipated market launch of the robot in two to three years," said Li Ruifeng, a member of the project with the Harbin Institute of Technology in this capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

    He said the team hoped to reduce the cost so that the robot can be priced at 30,000 to 50,000 yuan (4,000-7,000 U.S. dollars), which is expected to be an affordable price range for this type of product for most of China's better-off families.

    The robot has been developed with the functions of fetching food, medicine, sounding alarms in case of water or gas leakage, sending texts or video images via wireless communications, and even singing a song or playing chess to entertain its masters.

    Li said that the robot, developed independently in China, has technology on par with those in western labs.

    China embarked on the research of the robot in 2007, when it was listed as a national key project. It is backed by government funding, as the government has foreseen problems of an aging society.

    China has the world's largest elderly population with 159 million people over 60, accounting for 12 percent of its total population.

    According to a survey by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, more than 10 million caretakers and nurses are needed to attend the elderly population, as most of Chinese elderly prefer to live their retired lives at home.

Editor: Zhang Xiang
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