SHANGHAI: “Jia Jia” can hold a simple conversation and make specific facial expressions when asked, and her creator believes the eerily life-like robot heralds a future of cyborg labour in China.

Billed as China’s first human-like robot, Jia Jia was first trotted out last year by a team of engineers at the University of Science and Technology of China.

Team leader Chen Xiaoping sounded like a proud father as he and his prototype appeared Monday at an economic conference organised by banking giant UBS in Shanghai’s futuristic financial centre.

Chen predicted that perhaps within a decade artificially intelligent (AI) robots like Jia Jia will begin performing a range of menial tasks in Chinese restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals and households.

“In 5-10 years there will be a lot of applications for robots in China,” Chen said.

With flowing black hair and dressed in a traditional Chinese dress, Jia Jia looks strikingly real. Yet her charm has its limits and simple questions frequently stump her.

Still, Chen said his team has made great progress over the past two years in developing her AI.

She was able accurately to answer a query about the day’s weather, hold basic conversations and recognise the gender of her questioners.

“You are a handsome man,” she complimented one, but when asked later if she has a boyfriend, replied, “I prefer to stay single.” Rapid advancements are being made in artificial intelligence and such products stole the limelight at last week’s Consumer Electro­nics Show in Las Vegas.

Published in Dawn January 10th, 2017

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