Opinion: The robots are coming

POSTED: 11/28/11 7:58 AM

St. Maarten is not South Korea, but what happens in Seoul does not necessarily stay there. The country invested more than half a billion dollars in robotics in the past decade or so. Now, robots are becoming more and more part of everyday life.
In the town of Pohang three robot-guards will start working in the local prison as assistants to the human guards. (This is interesting for Justice Minister Roland Duncan) The robots are equipped with cameras and sensors that enable them to register dangerous behavior like violence and suicide attempts. They are not programmed to ill-treat inmates or to steal their money and they report their observations automatically to human guards.
It’s a bit of a bummer that the robot-test is so expensive. The one-month lasting experience will cost close to $800, 000. Even we understand that Minister Duncan does not have that kind of money available. The prison in Pohang does not have these financial headaches, because the South-Korean government picks up the tab. Instead of turning the robots into modern-day Dirty Harries, the South-Koreans want to give them a friendly appearance.
South-Korea is well on its way to become a world leader in the field of robotics. Schools already have English speaking robotic teaching assistants and stores use Showbo, a robot that bows for customers and informs them about special offers. In the near future, robots will be deployed as household-assistants for the elderly. There are no plans yet to replace parliamentarians with robots, but that too seems a matter of time.
The South-Koreans understand that quite some people might find the robot-invasion creepy. That’s why the government is building an amusement park near the city of Incheon called Robot Land; the developers expect to receive 2.8 million visitors every year.

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