China showcases its growing 'Jiqiren' power

A Beijing exhibition showcased scores of ''Jiqiren" or "machine people", which are the Chinese vision of robots, capable of engaging with real people in all kinds of human skills.  At the World Robot Conference, a man was seen practicing tai-chi in harmony with a motorised arm, while vehicles with automated turrets sat besides karaoke machines that served drinks

The Jiqiren push is supported at the highest levels of government. The effort of the organisers was hailed by president Xi Jinping. The industry finds an important mention in the draft version of the country's new five-year plan, the policy document that outlines the thrust of national economic development.

China had already emerged as the leading market for industrial robots, accounting for a quarter of global sales, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

However, according to executives at a conference, the real market opportunity lay in service robots for homes and offices in the country.

"There are now less than 100,000 robots in Chinese families, not including vacuum cleaners," said Liu Xuenan, chief executive officer of Canbot, AFP reported.

According to Yu Kai, the head of Horizon Robotics, China's automated helpers would perform all kinds of tasks from building cars to driving them. He said "each person might have 10 robots" - nearly 14 billion potential tin men at current population levels.

Meanwhile, ''Armed attack'' robots that carried grenade launchers had been unveiled in China as the latest line of defence in the fight against ''global terror'', according to state media.

Xinhua news agency said the toy-sized attacker was one of a trio of new ''anti-terror'' machines. The report did not specify measures that aimed to prevent the machines ending up in wrong hands.

''The toy-sized robots can coordinate with each other on the battlefield,'' said the report, following their unveiling at the 2015 World Robot Conference in Beijing.

The first model called a ''reconnaissance'' robot, is designed to detect poisonous gases, dangerous chemicals and explosives before communicating the findings back to the base.

In the event of the reconnaissance robot detecting a simple bomb as the source of danger, the second robot model - a small explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) machine - would be deployed to diffuse it.