By Kim Tae-gyu
Amateur golf coaches may have to worry about losing their jobs at practice ranges as their robotic alternatives are projected to debut in just a few years armed with sophisticated features and applications.
Hundreds of Korean experts in robotics convened midway through last month in Seoul and came up with the prediction that robots will start to take place of human golf coaches around 2015.
"The full-fledged development of partner robots in such sports as golf will be initiated in 2013," said Kim Shin-hwan from the Hyundai Research Institute.
"Instead of coaching amateurs for just part of the practice as is the case with human trainers right away, the robotic ones would be able to be next to the trainees to help them throughout the session," he said.
On top of the long coaching hours, the machines are likely to offer further advantages customized to end users. For example, they could measure driving distances and directions in real time.
In addition, their unblinking eyes would keep a tab on golfers' swings to offer tailor-made services, such as slice correction, depending on the players' height and weight.
"Research is already underway on sensor-equipped robots, which have the capacity of providing off-the-rack services in accordance to clients' frames. The technology is expected to be applied to robot coaches," Kim said.
Another attraction of these coaches, which would be stationary in the beginning, is a video-recording application that could be connected to the Internet.
Network-enabled machines are a good idea for a country where almost all homes and offices across the nation are connected to the Web and inexpensive Internet cafes are also ubiquitous.
Accordingly, people will be allowed to download video clips of their training sessions at home to compare their swing mechanisms to those of several months or a few years ago.
"The price tags of robotic coaches are one of the most important factors. In order for them to become popular in practice ranges, they should be cheap enough to replace their human counterparts," Kim said.
"Their prices should be reduced when mass production starts but it remains uncertain how much they would go down. The bottom line is whether they are able to create demand with killer applications," he said.
Seoul experts also predicted other partner robots will come to town in the years to come, which will take part in indoor hobbies with their owners.