Saturday, December 15, 2007

"I Am Robot"

I just finished watching the last fifteen minutes or so of a television program called "I Am Robot," on YTN. The program itself was produced by a science TV channel. The segment I watched featured a robot festival at a large exhibition hall somewhere in Korea. Students from several universities entered their robots in a variety of competitions, including relay races, basketball, dancing, music and so forth. Some of the robots could mimic human moves, if one of the students wore a specially designed electronic suit. Others were controlled from a small hand-held panel. A few things impressed me about this robot festival.
  • One was the obvious enthusiasm of the college students for their projects.
  • Another was how human-like some of the movements by the robots were. These were all humanoid robots, with two arms, two legs, and most of the major joints that a human being has.
  • The audience for the robot competitions included quite a number of grade-school children and their enjoyment of the festival could be seen on their faces. Might this competition influence some of them to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and make a future contribution to robotics?

Korea is investing a great deal these days to develop the field of robotics. See, for example, the activities of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory (지능로봇 연구실) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Korea University. Most of the other top universities have similar efforts underway, not to mention the work of government research institutes. Robots promise to play an interesting role in Korea's future information society as networks become ubiquitous.

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