'Query: Father, Why Have Y'all Forsaken Me?'

Farmer Forced To Disband Robo-Army

from Sploid

China's most famous amateur robot maker has been forced to sell his army of servants to pay off his debts.

As Wu Yulu watches home movies of his beloved Wu Laowu lighting cigarettes and serving tea, the sadness is palpable. Losing a loved one is hard enough, selling one is heartbreaking.

"I couldn't sleep well for several days after selling the child, but I had no other choice. I had to pay off my debts," said Wu.

Wu, 44, has been rummaging through the scrap heaps of eastern Beijing for 26 years. He scrounges for anything he can find to build his beloved robots.

Though poverty forced him to drop out of school after at age 12, Wu's passion for robots has never waned.

"At that time, I didn't even know the term 'robot'," Wu said. "But in my spare time from farming, I tried to collect everything that could be used in those movable things.

"I loved to play with robots. The cleverer they became, the deeper the emotional link I felt to them. Later, I began to call them my sons."

In 1999, a fire burned down his home, leaving him and his wife with nothing. His neighbors generously gave money so he could rebuild. A year later, unable to read the English language warning on a used battery, he suffered horrible burns on his hands and spent weeks in the hospital.

"When I tested the tube, it exploded in my hands. I remember a big fireball suddenly burst out, and I lost my memory," he recalled.

Between the medical bills and the money for the new house - plus loans to fund further robot building - Wu found himself $11,000 in debt.

Though his wife has been running a school out of their home and he's been hired by China Central Television to build customized robots, the debts were crushing. Now Wu has been forced to disband his robot army.

"The neighbors would not mention money, but I had to show them some consideration," he said. "I felt terrible, but had no choice. An institute affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences bought one of the robots for "several thousand."

Just last month Yulu captured headlines with his most recent creation,
Number 8, a rickshaw-pulling robot. With ping pong eyeballs, a sponge mouth and enough battery power to travel five miles, the 5-foot, 10-inch robot was ready to change the face of city travel.

Between the fires and the poverty, Wu's wife, Dong Shuyan, tries to keep her sense of humor.

"When we got married, everyone warned me he would care more about his robots than about me," she said, "but on the other hand, at least he doesn't drink or chase other women."


Post a Comment

<< Home