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More recently, Silicon Valley has gone gaga over more than a few pointless products, like Yo — the app that said only “yo”— and Juicero, the 0 juicer.

Ultimately the exuberance could be a good thing for China, as useful products find their place and bad ones disappear when the boom matures. What was an agrarian backwater 40 years ago is home to the world’s single largest group of internet users and some of its most valuable internet companies. In 2017, Chinese start-ups took up nearly half the dollars raised globally for artificial intelligence, according to CB Insights, a research firm that follows venture capital.

Companies and local officials often have good reason to show off their splashiest and silliest wares.

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Inside, a robot with hearts for eyes charged its batteries in an ersatz cave rimmed by silver stalagmites tipped with glowing white lights. Waiters said their automated counterparts caused more work than they saved.

The robots take trays of food out to customers, but are unable to lower them to the table.

Alibaba, the Chinese online shopping giant, has also gotten into the act, though in a more sophisticated way.

At one of its new Hema grocery stores in Shanghai, rolling robots take cooked food out onto a sort of runway that connects the kitchen to seating.

China has become a global technological force in just a few years. Its technology ambitions helped prompt the Trump administration to start a trade war.

Hundreds of millions of people in China now use smartphones to shop online, pay their bills and invest their money, sometimes in ways more advanced than in the United States. Facial recognition technology helps dole out everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken orders to toilet paper.

By 2020, China is expected to account for more than 30 percent of worldwide spending on robotics, according to technology research firm IDC. Three times during an hour lunch, a waiter had to lean a robot on its side and take a blowtorch to the undercarriage to burn out food and trash caught in its axles. But that’s the driver of progress in a lot of cases.”The E-Patrol Robotic Sheriff could fill that bill.

When asked whether he was worried that the robots would take his job, the waiter laughed.“Chinese are much more willing to try something new just because it looks cool,” said Andy Tian, chief executive of Beijing-based Asia Innovations Group, which runs mobile apps. It is among several security robots that have shown up at train stations and airports around China in recent months.

The E-Patrol Robotic Sheriff — which looks like the camera lens from the HAL 9000 computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey” mounted on a white trash tub — patrols the high-speed rail station in the central Chinese city Zhengzhou, tasked with using facial recognition to find and follow suspicious characters, as well as to measure air quality and detect fires.

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