In a TV spectacle celebrating the Chinese New Year and seen by more than 640 million viewers, 540 Chinese-made robots danced in time to a song sung by a Chinese superstar while 29 neon-colored drones flew in unison overhead.
To give you a point of comparison, 115 million Americans watched the Super Bowl; 640 million viewers watched the Spring Festival Gala celebration of Chinese New Year. Another factoid, Intel just won a Guiness World Record for having 100 flying drones fly and show their colored lights in sync with an orchestra playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, compared to 540 UBTECH Alpha1 robots performing synchronized dancing.
If you watch the whole 1-1/2 hour extravaganza, you can see a level of consumerism and commercialism that may be surprising. Certainly that consumerism is showing up in demand for small household products and robots – robots that suggest they can provide a wealth of services and applications:
- Tutoring and interpreting
- Household reminders and alarm services including reminding when medications need to be taken
- Home guard and smart control of appliances like lights and locks
- Entertainment such as DJ, dancer and singer
- Personal photographer
- Yogi tutoring – with 20 joints replicating human motion
- Personal assistant to make calls, check voicemails, read and send texts and emails
UBTECH used their Alpha1 robot for the CCTV Chinese New Year show. On their website they are showing their new Alpha2 – in English – in a revealing video.
Why is this important?
This Chinese New Year's inclusion of robots and drones – and Japan's focus on showcasing robots and robotics for their Olympics in 2020 – shows their interest in human-like robots and this interest translates into consumer demand. UBTECH and many other startups in China and elsewhere are focusing on taking advantage of that Asian interest with products such as the Alpha robot and the SoftBank Pepper robot. Alpha is smaller than Pepper but they both interact using human speech and are geared to home and social use. Alpha, Buddy, Jibo and Pepper are all entering the marketplace this year and we will see how they fare after a few months of user experience. Certainly Alpha is a Chinese competitor to the success of Pepper.
Let the games begin!