Chapter 9: Technological Entrepreneurship with Chinese Characteristics: The Qrobot Case
Claudio Petti, Xiaowei Hu and Shujun Zhang INTRODUCTION Three years after Bill Gates envisioned the transition from personal computers to personal robots and his big prediction of ‘A robot in every home’ in 2007’s first issue of Scientific American (Gates, 2007), about 8.7 million ‘service robots for personal and private use’ (hereinafter called personal service robots) were sold worldwide, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR, 2010). Personal service robots can be characterized, following the IFR, as robots which operate semi- or fully autonomously to perform services useful to the well-being of humans; they exclude equipment – which comprises service robots for professional use, and manufacturing operations – which are referred to as industrial robots. Personal service robots are, at present, mainly domestic robots, and include vacuum cleaning and lawn-mowing robots, entertainment and leisure robots, toy robots, hobby systems, and educational and training robots. Other areas in which personal service robots are not very widespread at present but are expected to increase significantly in the future are: handicap assistance, personal transportation and home security and surveillance.1 Both Bill Gates and market analysts converge in their opinion that these robots can open new market opportunities well beyond saturated automotive assembly lines in the same way that personal computers revolutionized the mainframe market more than 30 years ago. The enlightenment of the big predictions from Bill Gates as well as market developments2 found fertile ground in the mind of Hu Xiaowei. With a background in teaching and two master’s degrees – in Educational Research...
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