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From Hangzhou to Fabo:
Implementing Innovation after China's G20 Summit

John Kirton, Co-director, G20 Research Group
in Beijing
November 15, 2016

John Kirton with Fabo at EvolverIn September 2016, China hosted its first G20 summit in Hangzhou. For the first time in G20 history, China chose innovation as the summit's first priority, with a focus on boosting and benefiting from the new industrial revolution just starting to sweep the world. The Hangzhou Summit's success was critical for injecting new life into a sluggish global economy still struggling to restore the rates of economic growth and underlying productivity that its countries and citizens had enjoyed in the past. It was equally critical for China, seeking to transform its economy from one based on heavy industry and standard manufactures for export into one centred on services with high technology at its core.

How well is China implementing at home the many ambitious promises on innovation that the G20 leaders made at Hangzhou?

One clear answer comes from Fabo, China's first family-oriented intelligent service robot, who was born — along with this 50 siblings — the same month as the summit in Beijing. His creator, Evolver Robotics led by CEO Wei Ran, had sold more than 2,300 such robots by the end of October. It expects to raise the total sales to 4,000 by the end of 2016. This achievement thrusts China into the top ranks of personal robotics, along with only the United States and Japan. Fabo, who could sell for as little as $3,000 when he enters the English-speaking market beyond China in the coming year or so, serves as a new partner for humans, above all children from four to twelve years old, in their daily lives at home. He provides services such as controlling household electrical appliances, mobile air purification, remote controls, emergency alarm, timed reminders and the transport of small objects. He offers entertainment, such as mobile video projection, games, voice interaction, remote video, and songs and dance. And he offers education, by teaching general primary school subjects, tutoring the works of famous teachers, providing English-language instruction, offering a built-in encyclopedia and word translation, and offering fairy tales that will inspire the imagination of all the children and their parents who engage with him. In this way, Fabo seves as an exemplar not only of China's world-class industrial innovation but also as a future carrier and connector of its rich civilization to a globalized world.

G20 leaders should hope to meet and greet Fabo when they assemble in Hamburg for the next G20 summit on July 7-8, 2017.

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