China scientists recently announced that they are only a couple of years away from launching a robot to care for the elderly. This new robot, reportedly 1.6 meters in height will perform numerous functions such as "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" (Xinhua). Assuming that the developers can bring costs down enough, the robot will be selling for between 30 000 and 50 000 yuan ($4000 to $7000).
Now forgive me if I'm being a little cynical here, but I'm pretty sure that a run-of-the-mill ayi (hired nanny) would be far cheaper. But it doesn't look like there's much consideration being given to practicality in a project like this one. This 'Elderly Robot' endeavor was tagged as one of China's key national projects back in 2007. And while there is definitely going to be a massive need for elderly home care in China's future, I don't think anyone realistically believes that robots are the solution. They might be ok for lifting, but that's about it.
This smells of another 'face' project aimed at keeping up with the Robot for elderly in Japan, 2006. China's project started in 07.
Japanese Joneses. Xinhua quoted scientist Li Ruifeng as saying that the robot, developed independently in
China, has technology on par with those in western labs.
I'd be inclined to believe it if the state mouthpiece wasn't trying to hard to convince us...
China Robot photo: Axis of Info