Panda robot to delight visitors at China's Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion

Artificial intelligence, technology and tradition will be at the heart of China's Expo display

Read the latest updates on Expo 2020 Dubai

A friendly panda robot and a massive lantern with flashing lights will be crowd pullers for the China pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The black and white robot called Youyou can pull off some tai-chi moves, wield a calligraphy pen with a flourish and act as a guide for pavilion visitors.

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The China pavilion looks like a luxurious lantern thanks to the brackets, lattice windows and other Chinese traditional architectural elements
Zhang Shenfeng, commissioner general of the China pavilion

Giant pandas are considered national treasures in China, and the robot has been designed to act as an ambassador of friendship and peace.

Zhang Shenfeng, commissioner general of the China pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, said the country aimed to display its technology while promoting traditional arts.

“Artificial intelligence and robots are one of the core exhibits of the China pavilion,” he told The National.

One of the largest on the Expo site, the Chinese structure is more than 23 metres high and covers 4,636 square metres. Modelled on a traditional lantern and built using LED lamp panels, the pavilion is called Light of China and symbolises reunion and hope.

“The China pavilion looks like a luxurious lantern thanks to the brackets, lattice windows and other Chinese traditional architectural elements it incorporates,” Mr Zhang said.

“The challenge facing us was how to artistically integrate traditional elements with modern design, so as to create the perfect combination of the traditional lantern and modern acoustic-photoelectric technologies.”

Most of the basic construction material was sourced from the UAE, while decorative elements and red modules for the lantern were customised in China.

The panda robot was built by a Chinese company called UBTech. Youyou uses cutting-edge technology such as automatic navigation and hand-eye co-ordination to allow it to paint, draw and walk around the pavilion.

The bear will provide information on smart cities, agriculture techniques and environmentally friendly practices as it takes visitors through large interactive 3D displays.

In an introductory video released earlier this month, Youyou makes a heart sign with his hands and says, “I come from Shenzhen, China. I was born for AI, for our dream, our planet, our home and our future.”

Announcing that he represents China-made technology, Youyou says his mission was to send “love to the world”, in visuals released at the World Robot Conference in Beijing.

Dumplings and driverless cars

Other exhibits will be a high-speed railway model of the China Railway, driverless cars and a theme theatre.

Another section recreates a 3D version of a smart city where visitors need to scan a QR code to watch how hi-tech systems can make life easier, from shopping to medical care and education.

Space exploration will be another focus, with films about China’s satellite navigation networks and the new Tiangong space station. Models, photographs and interactive displays will show the soil of the Moon, Mr Zhang said.

“There will be a space science-fiction film that expounds the common dream of mankind to explore the unknown, pursue ideals and build a community with a shared future for mankind,” he said.

There will also be light shows at night to draw in the crowds, and a restaurant that has operated for more than a century in Yangzhou, eastern China. It will serve popular dishes such as the Beijing roast duck, Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles and Cantonese shrimp dumplings.

“Visitors will have a chance to watch Chinese food made from scratch,” Mr Zhang said.

Organisers have also built an online offering so people who are unable to visit Dubai can be part of the experience remotely.

In Beijing on Sunday, the UAE embassy held a cultural event for diplomats as part of a countdown to the Expo that opens on Friday in Dubai.

Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri, the UAE's ambassador to China, said he was confident that the building would “one of the pavilions that could receive the biggest number of visitors at the Expo 2020 Dubai”.

“The China pavilion will showcase China's latest achievements in science, technology and sustainable development,” he said.

Updated: September 27th 2021, 3:20 AM
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