Unlike most of the others, however, Ma has realized his childhood
dream at the age of 42, by successfully constructing a life-sized
robot from scratch on the balcony of his home.
The fruit of his labors of a year-and-a-half, and a budget of more
than $50,000, is a female robot prototype he calls the Mark 1,
modeled after a Hollywood star whose name he wants to keep under
wraps. It responds to a set of programed verbal commands spoken into
"I figured I should just do it when the timing is right and realize
my dream. If I realize my dream, I will have no regrets in life,"
said Ma, who had to learn about fields completely new to him before
he could build the complex gadget.
Besides simple movements of its arms and legs, turning its head and
bowing, Ma's robot, which has dark blonde hair and liquid eyes, and
wears a gray skirt and cropped top, can create detailed facial
In response to the compliment, "Mark 1, you are so beautiful", its
brows and the muscles around its eyes relax, and the corners of its
lips lift, creating a natural-seeming smile, and it says, "Hehe,
A 3D-printed skeleton lies beneath Mark 1's silicone skin, wrapping
its mechanical and electronic parts. About 70 percent of its body
was created using 3D printing technology.
Ma's journey of creation was a lonely one, however. He said he did
not know of anyone else in the former British colony who builds
humanoid robots as a hobby and few in the city understood his
"During this process, a lot of people would say things like, 'Are
you stupid? This takes a lot of money. Do you even know how to do
it? It's really hard,'" Ma said.
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He adopted a trial-and-error method in which he encountered
obstacles ranging from frequent burnt-out electric motors to the
robot losing its balance and toppling over.
"When you look at everything together, it was really difficult,"
said Ma, who had to master unfamiliar topics from electromechanics
to programing along the way, besides learning how to fit the robot's
external skin over its components.
Ma, who believes the importance of robots will only grow, hopes an
investor will buy his prototype, giving him the capital to build
more, and wants to write a book about his experience, to help other
The rise of robots and artificial intelligence are among disruptive
labor market changes that the World Economic Forum projects will
lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years.
(Writing by Clarence Fernandez)
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