by Tom Carroll
Korea has ambitious plans to
implement robotics in education,
medicine, and in the military. Growth
in robotics research and sales in Korea
is predicted to increase from $1 billion
(US) in 2007 to $10 billion (US) in
2010, though the international
recession may cut that back a bit.
Scientific breakthroughs abound
as Korean universities and high-tech
companies continue to develop
amazing products for the world,
including robots. The Hubo-Einstein
robot developed by the Korea
Advanced Institute of Science
(KAIST) back in 2004 has astounded
audiences around the world.
One of South Korea’s major goals
is to have a robot in every South
Korean home by the year 2020, and
they just might accomplish this goal.
Korea Reinvents Itself
Let’s step back a few years and
see how Korea became the center of
industry that it is today. Prior to World
War II and even back into the 19th
century, Korean ‘experimenters’ and
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novelty makers built wind-up
automatons similar to ones built in
Japan and China. Korea was truly a
Third World country a century ago
and struggled to feed and clothe
After the Korean War (which
technically is not over), Korea was
determined to become an industrial
force and rid itself of “Third World”
status. Since this war, Korean
industries have been grouped into
“chaebols,” or what we might call
conglomerates or monopolies,
all sanctioned by the Korean
government. Grouping was frequently
under ‘semiconductors,’ ‘heavy
machinery,’ and similar classifications.
Samsung, Hyundai, Lucky
Goldstar (now called LG), Hanjin,
Daewoo, and other large industries
form the core of Korea’s industrial
capability. Unfortunately, to achieve
their lofty status, most of these
companies have suffered disgraces
from bribery and money mismanagement charges.
Spot welding robots imported
from Japan were first used in a
Hyundai automobile plant in 1978.
In 1986, Daewoo Heavy Industries
produced the Yaskawa NOVA- 10 robot
in Korea — a series of manufacturing
robots that were shipped world-wide.
During the Asian financial crisis of
1997-98, a shift was made away
from the industrial robot sector
to the development of service and
Robotics follows automobiles,
consumer electronics, and computers
as the main thrust of Korean
industries, with personal/service
robots and robotic appliances a main
part of that industrial sector.
Korean companies have
developed some interesting robotic
devices to assist the homemaker.
Korean electronics giant, Samsung has
manufactured several robot vacuum
cleaners that have been sold in Asian
countries, but very few in the US.
Samsung took into account some of
the issues with the world’s best
selling Roomba and introduced the
VC-RP30W at the end of 2003. Figure
1 shows this unit which is quite a bit
taller than a Roomba.
Touted as having a “3-D mapping
capability,” it supposedly could map a
specific room and determine the
location of furniture and other
obstacles, then accurately cover the
floor area in one pass. It did not use
the random ‘grazing sheep’ pattern
adopted by others.
As with all high-end robotic
cleaners, the VC-RP30W could be
programmed manually, but this unit
could also be remotely programmed
through a computer. It could cross
thresholds to enter and clean a
separate room. It could also
automatically dock and recharge itself
after 50 minutes of operation.
It included some of the features
of iRobot’s Connect-R in that it had a
camera attached for remote viewing,