The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has employed a talking robot to aid the rehabilitation of substance users through human-machine counselling.
While robots elsewhere are made to blur the line between humans and machines, the robot in the capital of Guangdong Province boasts a special appeal to addicts who find it embarrassing to talk to human community workers.
On Saturday the "Tianche No. E" started its tenure at a community rehab center in Nansha District. According to Xinhua news agency, aided by artificial intelligence algorithms and big data, the machine offers individual counselling, psychological evaluation and a reminder of urine tests.
It is co-developed by the district's narcotics control commission and a Chinese tech firm to streamline the rehab service, according to the commission.
After swiping an ID card and undergoing facial recognition, a user can start counselling, an important part of the follow-up care after drug addiction treatment, with the robot, which generates a report afterward.
"Traditional counselling may have problems like repetitive questioning, complicated process of archiving and a lack of analysis," said Yang Qingqiu, deputy commander of the district anti-drug brigade, who hailed the "Tianche No. E" for reducing 80 percent of their paperwork.
Meanwhile, a former drug addict said that he felt better to talk with the robot on questions that he found it hard to answer when facing officials and community workers.
The commission said they have plans to utilize the same robot model at more community rehab centers in the district.