BEIJING: At a trade show in the southern of Beijing, the children and parents in the midst of a group of pink and blue robots that resemble toddler-sized Power Rangers.
The robots – wired with wide LED smiles and cutesy personalities – are the brainchild of the Chinese-American company AvatarMind, built to be futuristic retail workers, teacher's assistants and household helpers.
But even as the company polishes off the production of 2,000 units, AvatarMind and companies like it are rethinking plans for international expansion in the face of widening tariffs.
“We want to sell them for the price that is affordable for families, not just institutions. And Trump's Tariffs may affect that, “AvatarMind chief executive Dr John Ostrem said at the World Robot Conference, which ends Sunday.
The main competitor to AvatarMind's iPal humanoid robot is a similar but much pricier bot called Pepper, which is made by Japan's SoftBank Group Corp.
China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) says the slowdown is not related to trade.
But analysts say there is an obvious link to direct tariffs on industrial machinery and robot parts, as well as domestic manufacturers.
“How could not it be related?” Said Iris Pang, economist for Greater China at ING Wholesale Banking in Hong Kong. “The trade war may have some deferred decisions of export-related manufacturers.”
US tariffs on US $ 16bil (RM65.73bil) worth of Chinese goods arrived in midnight on Wednesday, alongside retaliatory Chinese tariffs on an equal amount of US goods.
Although robots are not directly named, the US list includes electronics, auto parts and other items that require automated manufacturing and robots. An earlier round of US $ 34bil (RM139.69bil).
The situation could worsen for Chinese robotics manufacturers, analysts say, if the US imposes a further US $ 200bil (RM821.74bil) in China.
China has included robotics as one of 10 industries in the United States 2025 industrial plan, which aims to make it a world leader in key technologies within the next decade.
Some Chinese companies hope the country's cornerstone One Belt One Road United States evaporates.
Others said that in the US, where competing products like Pepper are still more expensive.
Li Shuai, a manager at the Chinese medical robot firm Remebot, said her company is seeking FDA approval for its robots.
“There is a similar product abroad in France,” Li said. “Its domestic price is probably in the tens of millions, and the price of our equipment is controlled at about five or six million. Therefore, there is still a great advantage for us. “- Reuters