Tea Ceremony Positions Boston as Harbour for U.S.-China Robotics Cooperation

inteahouse

By Olivia Jeffers, Compassionate Technology

Boston has a long relationship with trade and tea. Hopefully ushering a new era of collaborative investment, Xin Liu brings tea to the Massachusetts State House with inTeahouse and MassRobotics’ first U.S.-China Robotics Summit on Thursday, October 13.

Surrounded by U.S. state flags, inTeahouse coordinated a beautiful and calming tea ceremony, uniting the intentions of MassRobotics and the People’s Republic of China to increase investment and cooperation in robotics.

InTeahouse recently founded by Xin Liu, with their flagship office in Cambridge, MA, has the goal of fostering U.S.-China tech investments and collaboration. They are opening 9 more offices in Europe, the U.S., and Asia, with the goal of creating a global network.

China lags behind in industrial automation

There’s a large gap and need for robotics in China, and surprisingly, “China lags behind in [the] industrial space in automation” says Christian Ma, COO of inTeahouse.

Xing Jijun, Counselor of Science and Technology with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, says that service robots are a large priority given China’s aging population as a result of the one child policy, creating many 421 families, with 1 grandchild supporting 4 grandparents in old age.

Not only in service robotics, China has an initiative to become one of the top 10 in industrial use of robotics by 2020.

Coming out of the “Made in China” era of heavy industrial and manufacturing growth, China is now grasping onto emerging technologies and making moves towards creating the future, not just manufacturing it.

And what about artificial intelligence?

“What drives robotics is AI, it’s all artificial intelligence,” says Ma, it’s about “using intelligence to drive mechanics, intelligently, and create a system out of it.”

Given the power and unknowability of artificial intelligence, heavy investments in robotics and AI naturally brings up fears for the future.

In the United States, artificial intelligence quickly turns into thoughts of Skynet and job loss. In China however, a high value on efficiency and pragmatism in the culture might create an emotionally accepting market for in-home robotic devices.

Brain Robotics Capital, an early stage investment fund based out of Kendall Square, focusing on U.S.-China investments in artificial intelligence and robotics, including Jibo, an emotional robot for the family home. Jibo, a Boston-based company, has eyes on the Chinese market for their cute and almost cuddly robot.

In terms of robotics, the role of consumer and producer between the U.S. and China may flip, with the Chinese and Asian consumer markets driving robotics and AI.

Why collaborate with China?

“We must be willing to work together in ways [that we were] uncomfortable with in the past,” says Tom Ryden, Executive Director of MassRobotics.

Dan Theobald, Chief Innovation Officer of Vecna Technologies, believes that by engaging in a precompetitive collaboration with China, that robotics “if done correctly, [..] can be a great equalizer” for many problems facing humanity today.

Facilitating these collaborations, inTeahouse offers quarterly Sector Summits for American companies to visit Chinese tech centers such as Zhongguancun of Beijing and Shenzhen of Guangdong Province.