Humanoid robots that can dance, act in unison and move around on a self-balancing scooter were at the center of media spotlight at the closing ceremony of Chengdu Universiade 2023 last evening.
Chinese media reported that this is the first time humanoids were employed as “performers” at the closing ceremony of a world sports event.
UBTech (优必选), a Shenzhen-headquartered humanoid robot developer, deployed its iconic Walker X and Panda bipeds to the venue of the closing ceremony.
Walker X rolled onto the stage before piloting itself halfway across to one end of an illuminated wall made of 15 mobile screens.
As it waved its hand gently past the screens, a yellowed ink painting from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) showed.
Within seconds, the painting faded out and a picture of modern Chengdu, the host city of the Games, came into view.
The appearance of Walker X was followed by the group dance of four Panda robots.
They passed along pinwheels among them and danced according to a pre-choreographed script.
It’s not the first time UBTech’s humanoids have performed in front of an international audience.
They have been featured several times in official ceremonies of major sporting events to entertain the viewers and also showcase China’s tech prowess.
The most challenging part of the robotic performance lies in the synchronization and coordination of the robots’ movement, said UBTech.
Each Panda biped was programmed to walk 20 m, entered and left the stage and changed their formation — all within one minute.
UBTech revealed to media that several of the firm’s core technologies, including force control, motion algorithm optimization, high-precision positioning and stable gait control, were utilized to ensure the robots functioned as planned.
The Shenzhen company has been a domestic pioneer in the domain of humanoid robotics, and is now in the process of pursuing a listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
However, it has long drawn flak over the some 2.4 billion yuan (US$333 million) it recorded in the space of just three years, signaling the shared monetization conundrum confronting many humanoid robot developers.