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
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.