Cheetah to offer robots for rent

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Intelligent robots are often portrayed as omnipotent assistants in movies and novels, but in fact they are far removed from people's daily lives due to technological deficiencies and extravagant prices.

A Chinese company aims to change that by bringing smart machines to companies and houses at affordable prices.

For about 2,999 yuan (US$475) per month, consumers can rent a smart robot produced by Cheetah Mobile Inc, which is best known for its utility apps in foreign countries.

After renting the robot for 18 months, at a cost of around 54,000 yuan, customers can keep the robot forever, making it much cheaper than rival products.

Guo Xuan, deputy director of Beijing-based Yizhuang Smart Robotics Industry Research Institute, said the move may create a new way of selling robots at China.

It can accelerate the popularity of robots, but efforts are needed to ensure product quality.

Cheetah Mobile claimed the robot, known as the Greetbot, could serve as a security guard to patrol workplaces at night and automatically turn off all lights when the employees finish work.

At the launch event, Greetbot showcased its capability of offering reception services to people who visit companies and hospitals. The robot is part of a broader product range Cheetah Mobile unveiled on Wednesday night in Beijing, including an accompanying robot for children and a robotic arm that can make coffee.

The move showcased its determination to gain a presence in the booming sector. China is the world's largest market for industrial robots, and the aging population also creates a growing demand for service robots in the medical, healthcare, education and entertainment sectors.

On Thursday, Midea Corp said it will set up a joint venture with German robotics company Kuka AG to build a production plant in China. Midea has acquired Kuka to boost its competence in the robotics sector.

Fu Sheng, chairman and CEO of Cheetah Mobile, said despite the intensifying competition, the robotics industry still boasts many opportunities.

"Most companies are just assembling robots and few of their products are really helpful. We are rethinking what features are required and which price range will be accepted by consumers," Fu said.

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