Robots for Surgery, Farming and Valet Parking
Korea Unveils Plans for ‘Avatar’ Robots
By Kim Tae-gyu
Korea is currently developing robots conceptually similar to the avatar humanoids as demonstrated in the movie "Avatar," a science-fiction blockbuster directed by James Cameron.
During its regular assembly held on Friday, the Robot Convergence Forum expected that the avatar robots would hit the market in a few years. The forum involves both the private and public sectors.
``Already, domestic robot makers are working on prototypes of avatar robots and the consensus is that the commercial versions will come to town by late 2013,'' a Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) director said.
``The robots will not be exactly like the advanced humanoid fighters in the movie 'Avatar.' However, both basically share the same ideas of being built to represent their owners.''
The MKE official said the avatar robots would be connected to the Web to act as their owners do.
``Let's say that a son is studying abroad. Then he can leave his avatar robot at home to stay with their parents, brothers and sisters. When he sends messages, the avatar robot will say them to the family members in his own voice,'' he said.
``As the technology evolves, the robots will improve down the road. The advent of avatar robots will become reality in the not-so-distant future although it remains to be seen when the markets for the products would explode."
Professor Kim Jun-sup at Korea National University of Arts predicted that the avatar robots would compete with holograms.
``We need to see robots as media. Avatar robots will zero in on story-telling functions to compete with mobile communications powered by holograms. It would be a tough rivalry,'' Kim said.
``Avatar robots will be good in the beginning but people might get bored with them because they cannot change their shapes easily. By contrast, holograms boast a diversity that robots hardly have.''
Yet, Kim said avatar robots would help educate students about robotics technologies in preparation of the era of personalized robots.
``As our youngsters use the various features of robots or create programs on their own, they will learn a lot. Just as computers, robots will eventually be personalized,'' Kim said. ``In that sense, a variety of machines such as avatar robots need to be developed in a full-fledged manner.''
Meanwhile, scientists participating in the convergence forum forecast that surgery assistant robots would be commercialized by 2013 while capsule robots would be launched by 2015.