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For China’s lonely children, ‘iPal’ robot is a companion

The device stands as tall as a five-year-old, moves, dances and offers education

June 14, 2018 09:07 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 10:38 am IST - Shanghai

iPal robots at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia in Shanghai

iPal robots at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia in Shanghai

It speaks two languages, gives math lessons, tells jokes and interacts with children through the tablet screen in its chest — China’s latest robot is the babysitter every parent needs.

The “iPal” was among a slew of new tech unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia in Shanghai this week, offering education and company for lonely children and peace of mind for adults.

The humanoid device stands as tall as a five-year-old, moves and dances on wheels and its eyes keep track of its charges through facial recognition technology.

Parents can also remotely talk to and monitor the children through the iPal, which is linked to a smartphone app that allows them to see and hear everything. “The idea for this robot is to be a companion for children,” said Tingyu Huang, co-founder of AvatarMind Robot Technology. “When a child sees it, he or she will think of the robot as a friend, as another child in the family.”

"They're pretty cute"

The price tag of 9,000 yuan ($1,400) has not dampened interest from buyers watching a performance of several iPals dancing in unison. “They’re pretty cute. I was just thinking my own two-year-old daughter would love one,” Mike Stone, a buyer from Australia said.

China’s young working parents often face the burden of taking care of children or elders without help from a large extended family, as the impact of the country’s decades-long one-child policy lingers.

The limit was raised to two children in 2016.

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