Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stickybot: The Global Nature of New Technology

Stickybot" is a quadruped robot capable of climbing smooth surfaces, such as glass, acrylic and whiteboard using directional adhesive.  What is more interesting for the purpose of this post is that Sangbae Kim, a Korean Ph.D. student at Stanford University, was the lead designer of this amazing little robot.  A graduate of Yonsei University, Sangbae has already completed an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford and is working on his Ph.D with a special focus on bio-inspired robots.  If you doubt at all that this is inspirational work, please view the embedded video of "Stickybot" in action.  In the mid-1990s I taught for two years at the National University of Singapore and on more than one occasion I fell asleep after watching a tiny gecko crawl across the ceiling of my bedroom.  The biological similarities to real geckos that Kim Sangbae and his team have captured are truly amazing!  For those of you wishing to explore this in more depth, I recommend Mr. Kim's website.
All of this is very significant in light of my earlier posts about South Korea's goals for its robotics industry. Korea has declared its intent to focus on service robots, including networked robots.  It requires only a little imagination to think about what future versions of "Stickybot" and other biomimetic robots might offer in this regard.
Kim Sangbae has, appropriately, received many accolades for his work.  What I'd like to stress here are the following aspects of this story.

  • It shows clearly that advanced technology development these days is inherently global or transnational. 
  • Korea's future technology development and competitiveness will draw on students educated in Korea, the U.S. and other parts of the world.
  • It seems that South Korea has a bright future in robotics.
I hope you all enjoy the video!  More on this topic in future posts.

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