March 25, 2023

Shanzhai is a Chinese word that literally translates to “mountain fortress” or “mountain village.” However, the current use of the term generally refers to counterfeit, imitation or pirated goods, which could include imitations and trademark infringement of brands as well as businesses.

It is possible to argue that all economies are born copycats. But, China has taken copycat to a whole new level. In the year 2019, 1 out of five U.S. companies reported that China stole their intellectual property. An analyst Jeff Schulze even went as in saying that “China’s claimed theft of intellectual property could pose a bigger threat to markets more than trade tariffs.” It’s not surprising that China even boasts about the theft of intellectual property of Western nations. One China defence lawyer said the Chinese “bandit pioneers” could be good for the world.

But, a significant number of Chinese businesses are now based on the Shanzhai strategy, and have given China the status of a “copycat nation.” Certain firms are more aggressive than others. One of the Chinese firms includes Unitree Robotics, one of the Zhejiang Chinese-based robotics companies established in the year 2000 by Chinese expert in robotics Xing Wang with the help of Chinese angel investors. The company focuses on development, production and sale of high-performance quadruple robots.

If you remember, in February of 2018, BostonDynamics unveiled SpotMini, the futuristic dog-like robot that can open doors with the most complicated method. The four-legged robot utilises its robotic arm, which has a pincer at the end to grip and turn the handle . It will then open the door.

A little more than three years later, Unitree Robotics unveiled Unitree Go1 which is a SpotMini similar to Spot and a robust four-legged robot that’s extremely affordable. Contrary to Boston Dynamics‘ Spot robot that costs $74,500, Unitree Go1 starts at only $2,700.

Go1’s demo video is shown in the task of “following the person on a walk” and “carrying just one glass filled with drinking water.” Unitree dubbed Go1 as a robot companion that will accompany you to any place you’d like to go.

But that’s not the only thing. The company announced in May of 2021 that Unitree unveiled a quadruple robot dog model , named A1. It also appears similar to Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot but is priced at just under 10,000, which is substantially lower than its much more advanced model that is the Laikago. Here is a side-by-side contrast of Unitree A1 and Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini.

The following video provides a description of Unitree A1. It can reach an outdoor maximum rate at 3.3m/s(11.88km/h) The maximum force for every joint is 33.5NM. It weighs 12kg, which includes a battery. It also has an RGB D-enabled camera, as well as streaming video via wireless.

Below is a second video by cNet.

Unitree claims its goal is to make robots as commonplace as smartphones and drones. To follow its Boston Dynamics model, Unitree’s first robot is a four-legged dog named Laika Go in honour of Laika Go, the Soviet satellite dog Laika that in the year 1957 was one of the very first animals to be orbiting the Earth.

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