A Robot in Every Home by 2020, South Korea Says

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
September 06, 2006

This year researchers in South Korea unveiled a lifelike android named EveR-1.

Fifteen motors underneath its silicon skin enable the robot, which looks like a Korean female in her early 20s, to hold a conversation, make eye contact, and appear to express emotions such as joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness. (See a photo of the Korean android.)

"EveR-1 demonstrates [that] our robotic technologies are at the forefront of the world," said the android's creator, Baeg Moon-hong, a senior researcher with the Division for Applied Robot Technology at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology in Ansan.

In fact, South Korea intends to make robots full members of society (map of South Korea).

Already the most wired country in the world, the Asian nation is merging information and robot technologies to make so-called networked robots—as opposed to ones that operate independently. The new breed of 'bots should be able to do everything from guiding museum visitors to teaching school children English.

Sound like science fiction?

The South Korean government doesn't think so. It wants to see mass production of networked robots begin next year and hopes to put a robot in every household by 2020.

"Personally, I wish to accomplish that objective by 2010," said Oh Sang Rok, who oversees the massive intelligent-service-robot project at the South Korean Ministry of Information and Communication.

Robot Companions

South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world with 72 percent of all households having broadband Internet.

But the nation still lags behind U.S. and Japanese competitors in robotics. While U.S. companies, in particular, have focused on developing military and industrial robots, South Korea has focused mainly on service robots.

"The market size of industrial robots is almost saturated worldwide … but the market of service robots is only now opening," said Oh, whose project gathers under its umbrella more than 30 companies and some 1,000 university and research-institution scientists.

Continued on Next Page >>




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