Robotics is a centerpiece of China’s quest to upgrade its industrial production and address a labor shortage.
At the moment, the mainland’s market for robots is still dominated by big international names like ABB Group and Kuka Robotics Corp., but China is offering incentives to encourage domestic robot makers to catch up.
While it will take years before Chinese robot makers can challenge their overseas rivals in a meaningful way, the recent boom in educational robots indicates this day could come sooner rather than later.
A growing number of mainland parents are buying educational robot kits, which cost anywhere between 500 yuan (US$76) and 3,000 yuan each, to help their children learn programming design languages, a Hong Kong Trade Development Council report said.
Robotics courses have also become popular. They typically cover subjects like sensors, electronics, mechanics and computer technology.
South Korean robot science education provider RoboRobo Co. Ltd. is one of the active players in China, offering instruction in different areas of robotics.
Beginners’ courses cover a variety of robot designs, including TreeBot, DancingBot and BumperBot.
Some companies, such as Beijing’s New Oriental Megaway Education & Consulting Co., even offer lessons aimed at three- to six-year-olds.
Parents consider these robot kits and courses good investments in equipping their children with a basic knowledge of robotics, which they see as a crucial foundation for the kids to get a headstart in a future where technology will inevitably play a bigger role.
The penetration rate of robots in China is reportedly still low, at about 36 per 10,000 workers, versus 478 in South Korea, 315 in Japan and 292 in Germany.
But this could change dramatically in a decade when these children start to join the labor force.
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