Now everybody wants one


Teen bought device online and was caught out by her mother when she completed her Lunar New Year assignments in record time
Media report alerts a wider audience to the robots, which can copy text and mimic your handwriting

A case of a schoolgirl in China buying a so-called copying robot to write her homework has caused many social media users to leap to her defence and fuelled growing interest in the machines.

It was reported last week by Qianjiang Evening News, in the eastern city of Hangzhou, that a woman surnamed Zhang in the northeast city of Harbin had discovered that her daughter, aged about 15, had bought the robot to help her complete homework during the Lunar New Year holiday. She used it for exercises such as copying passages from a textbook and writing essays.

Despite festivities and travelling leaving little time for the assignments, Zhang was amazed when her daughter finished all her text-copying in two days, with neat writing, the report said.

But while cleaning the girl’s room, Zhang found the device – a metal frame and pen, with packaging claiming it could “imitate all sorts of handwriting”.

LichTech has reported an increase in inquiries about its products. Photo: Taobao

It turned out that her daughter had spent more than 800 yuan (about US$120) to buy it online using her lai see – the packet of money given during the new year for luck. Angered by a demonstration she watched on how the robot could copy homework, Zhang smashed the appliance.

“It can help you with homework, but can it help you on tests?” Zhang was quoted as saying.

One of the robots capable of writing school homework, in a choice of fonts or even the user’s own handwriting. Photo: Thepaper.cn

One of the robots capable of writing school homework, in a choice of fonts or even the user’s own handwriting. Photo: Thepaper.cn

LichTech has reported an increase in inquiries about its products. Photo: Taobao

LichTech has reported an increase in inquiries about its products. Photo: TaobaoShare:

It turned out that her daughter had spent more than 800 yuan (about US$120) to buy it online using her lai see – the packet of money given during the new year for luck. Angered by a demonstration she watched on how the robot could copy homework, Zhang smashed the appliance.

“It can help you with homework, but can it help you on tests?” Zhang was quoted as saying.

Entering characters once each allows a robot to learn your handwriting. Photo: Taobao

Entering characters once each allows a robot to learn your handwriting.

Requiring children to copy text – such as vocabulary, textbook passages or poems – hundreds of times is common practice in Chinese schools.

However, most of the comments on the newspaper report’s social media posts enthused about the robot. Some said they wished they had owned such an item when they were younger, while others compared the girl’s short cut to their own, including tieing three or four pens in a row so they could write multiple words at once.

The robots can write for hours at a time. Photo: Taobao

The robots can write for hours at a time. Photo: TaobaoShare:

The South China Morning Post searched for “copying robot” on e-commerce platform Taobao and found numerous entries, with prices varying from 200 to more than 1,000 yuan. One specialist robot shop, named LichTech, featured a video explaining how its robot works.

It has a metal frame to hold paper, with an arm to which a pen can be attached. Attached to a computer by a USB cable, its robotic arm writes text entered using the accompanying software.‘Exam cheating machine brand’ linked to 100,000 devices across China

There is a variety of fonts to choose from and it even allows the user to create their own handwriting, by using an app to write 6,000 Chinese characters once each to enable the robot to learn them.

A shop assistant surnamed Wang said the company had been operating for three years but had a surge of inquiries recently. “The robot can write for eight hours a day and last for two or three years,” she said.

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