Whoever imagined Snow White as a robot? Just a couple of
weeks ago, the Nowon Culture and Arts Center in Seoul presented
exactly that on their stage ?Robot Princess and the Seven Dwarfs.
Playing the role of the heroine was the female robot ?veR?(Eve +
Robot) in her debut performance on stage. An adventure story about
an android princess created by a wicked queen who craved for
ever-lasting beauty through machines, even the theme of the old
fairy story was changed to something more philosophical than the
Created by the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH)
EveR had already been on stage at the National Theater of Korea to
sing pansori, the traditional Korean narrative opera. KITECH plans
to have her take part in other performances down the road and has
scheduled her for shows in the same theater with a local orchestra
Not to be outdone, the Pohang Institute of Intelligent Robotics in
Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang Province) featured a robot
puppet show ?ave the Green Wood?only a week later. Tech-tainment,
as the institute calls it, shows how robot friends in the forms of
a human, dinosaur, butterfly, panda and other animals get together
with fellow puppets to save the wood. Science and nature can go
together ?that was the underlying message.
More is yet to come. In December 2009 [u1] SBS, one of the major
Korean broadcasters, announced that it will air the nation's first
robot drama in the first half of 2011[u2] . The production team is
currently developing the synopsis jointly with the Korea Foundation
for the Advancement of Science and Creativity and said they would
like to bring the general public closer to science and elicit their
support and encouragement to researchers and engineers serving in
Just how far has the Korean robotics industry come? According to
statistics from the Korea Association of Robot Industry for 2009,
the nation has maintained a steady 10 percent growth in the
robotics sector despite financial trouble around the globe.
Although most of the robots in heavy demand are still largely
industrial robots, keep an eye on the future because service robots
are slowly expanding their scope. They are beginning to be seen
around the home and in public places ready to guide visitors, put
out fires, guard facilities, clean rooms and even cuddle up to
humans in the form of a pet animal.
It is no longer rare to see commercials for domestic
robots in Korea. The most well known kinds are cleaners that not
only pick up dust from the floor but also take care of the walls,
wiping and mopping. Some have environment sensors that can suck up
pollutants in the air. This is a welcome touch in seasons like
spring for people allergic to flower pollen or suffering from
Other sensors help robots to move around from one corner to the
other, enabling them to clean the entire floor area. These robot
cleaners don't damage furniture thanks to bumpers that lesson the
impact and built-in cameras that detect impending collisions.
? can just turn on the robot cleaner when I go out. When I return,
the floor is all clean,?one housewife said in her review for one
of the locally made robot cleaners.
They tend to be small and low in height so they can go
anywhere, including beneath sofas and tables. Some are very quiet
during their work, allowing owners to watch television or listen to
music. The only obstacle so far is the price, which is far more
expensive than an average vacuum cleaner.
Then there's the robot dog ?enibo?by DasaRobot Co., that
expresses various responses according to how it is touched. This
robotic pet is looking to advance into the French market after its
manufacturer signed an MOU with a robot company in France. The pet
dog will become an accessory for online games.
Face the front of the class
Going beyond e-learning, it's r-learning for the coming
generations. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy has been making
efforts to apply robots to the area of classroom teaching, and
those efforts are in the process of realization.
Recently, two types of robots sent to teach English in three
schools in Masan and Daejeon for a test-run. One type is called a
voluntary-type robot that can move around, identify students' faces
and exchange a few English dialogues according to the
Another is a tele-presence style robot remote-controlled by a
native English teacher via the Internet. The teacher must prepare
the robot before letting it go to the classroom. The teacher can
then run the class watching students through the loaded camera on
board the robot. The robot trial lessons went on for eight
Meanwhile, animal robots and mobile robots were presented to 10
elementary schools in Seoul in the form of kits that needed to be
assembled. They were used to run classes like mathematics, science
and art for five weeks.
According to the findings of Chungnam National University and Korea
Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, there was a considerable
improvement in children's reading, listening and talking skills.
The robot class also contributed to spark interest and
self-confidence in class. The results further revealed that
students much preferred the tele-presence robot instead of a
voluntary robot. The schools that used robot kits also had their
scores for attention span go up from 122.31 to 132.93 points and
scores for class attitude from 67.19 to 71.46 points[u4] .
To establish a full-fledged robot education, the
ministry plans to set up a task committee and inject 10 billion won
of budget to supply robots to some 500 kindergartens this year.
Another 40 and 50 billion won will be invested in 2011 and 2012,
respectively, so that by the second year a total of 8,000
kindergartens will be benefiting from r-learning.
The government will also look for ways to export its r-learning
content abroad. The early robots are to assist teachers through
small tasks like confirming absences, sending text messages and
offering health checks, among other things.
Doctor, it hurts here
Hospitals equipped with high-tech robotic systems are
not only benefitting local patients but leading the way for medical
tourism in Korea. The International Health Care Center at Yonsei
Severance Hospital in Seoul has been attracting wealthy patients
from China, Russia and Arab countries ever since it introduced
surgical robots named ?a Vinci?in 2007.
The hospital had performed over 3,200 successful operations by late
2009, with over 1,000 cases being thyroid cancer. It's the highest
number of operations performed by robot surgery in the world so
far. Da Vinci is also being used at many other hospitals
nationwide, including Kyungpook National University Hospital, which
has recently reported over 300 successful urinary, gynecological
and cardiothoracic surgeries, among others.
An even more exciting development is Robodoc (Robot + doctor), a
robot that performs surgery automatically through prior programming
by a doctor. Lauded for its high accuracy with almost no error in
surgeries performed, it has been bought by five local hospitals and
now boasts over 5,000 cases of successful operations. The Gimhae
Joongang Hospital, for one, announced it had 10 successful
surgeries since introducing the robot last month. ? felt there was
a limit to surgery using computer navigation. With Robodoc we can
perform artificial joint surgery almost flawlessly,?said Kim
Sang-chae, head of Gimhae Joongang Hospital .
Robodoc was first developed by U.S. company ISS co., The
company was later acquired by a Korean company Curexo and under its
lead, won the approval of the Korean Food and Drug Administration
in 2002. In 2008 Robodoc also won U.S. FDA approval in 2008,
widening the doorway for exports.
P&S Mechanics have developed Walkbot. It uses artificial joints
to help patients who are immobile to walk. With Walkbot, these
people can exercise more without extra help from a physiotherapist.
The company worked with Yonsei University's Department of
Physiotherapy, Ewha Womans University's Mokdong Hospital and
Soongsil University's Mechanical Engineering Department for the
past three years for this breakthrough. The company is currently
going through the final checkups and screening process by the FDA.
Patients who have suffered a stroke, have spinal pain, are
paralyzed or are suffering from other disorders that prevent them
from walking are likely to benefit from Walkbot in the future.
Robot industry to be given a further boost
Robot-related events and exhibitions have also increased
in size and number over the past few years. The latest robots will
be displayed in annual robot fairs like Automation World, Robot
Fairs, Robot Dancing Event and more across the nation.
Cities like Incheon and Masan have recently opened their own
Robotlands as a new source of entertainment and the city of Daegu
celebrated its designation as a new capital of robot industry,
having won the right to establish the Korea Robot Industry
Korea's history of service robots dates back to around 2005 with
the development of its first humanoid ?ubo?by KAIST. KITECH
caught up, with the development of its EveR-1 robot later. There
are 120 robot companies in the nation so far, with another 81
preparing to launch in the near future. With conglomerates moving
into the robot market these days, it can be safe to say the growth
trend of service robots will only expand.
By Kim Hee-sung
Korea.net Staff Writer
SOURCE : Korea.net