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The world’s most watched TV show had dancing robots

Ubtech’s Walker performed in China’s Spring Festival Gala

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This article originally appeared on ABACUS
We’ve seen robots twerking to Uptown Funk, or gyrating on stripper poles in high heels. Now they’ve taken the stage during the most watched TV show on Earth.
Just weeks after Ubtech’s Walker showed off its butler skill by serving drinks and opening doors for human attendees at CES, the humanoid traded the show floor for the dance floor at China’s annual Lunar New Year Gala.
Probably a “no” from Simon Cowell -- but still better than my moves. (Picture: CCTV)

The variety extravaganza, airing on state network CCTV every Chinese New Year’s Eve, draws hundreds of millions of viewers. This year around, between patriotic musicals and acrobat spectacles, six Walker robots moved to the beat alongside human dancers in a two-minute performance.

Ubtech, which sells a range of robot toys like this US$150 Star Wars Stormtrooper, is based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen (with offices in Los Angeles as well). The Walker is their newest product: Almost 5 feet tall and weighing 170 pounds, it’s a droid that Ubtech hopes will “one day be an indispensable part of your family”.

Right now, the Walker can grab you a can of Pringles, fetch you an umbrella, or take your bag once you get home. It’s equipped with facial recognition so that it knows it was you who asked for booze, not your young daughter. It can also control smart home appliances.

The Walker isn’t the first droid aimed at fulfilling our futuristic robot dreams. Boston Dynamics continues to produce flashy new videos showing robot dogs creepily opening the door like raptors in Jurassic Park -- or humanoids doing parkour.

But the big question remains: How relevant are these robots for regular consumers -- and are they useful enough to justify the price tag?

Boston Dynamics is expected to start selling its robot dog SpotMini this year, but it’s targeted at industrial use. No price has been revealed yet. Meanwhile Ubtech boss Zhou Jian told PingWest that the Walker will cost “several hundred thousand yuan” -- roughly the price of a midsize sedan.

You know what? I can probably fetch my own beer for now.

The virtual assistant in this SUV is a holographic anime girl

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.