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Posted : 2011-11-24 17:41
Updated : 2011-11-24 17:41

Robots to patrol jails at night


By Yun Suh-young

Robot guards will patrol jail corridors as early as next year, lifting the burden off human prison guards.

The Ministry of Knowledge and Economy will invest 1 billion won in the project to develop the robot guards with the Asian Forum for Corrections (AFC), a private institute, undertaking and overseeing the development of four-wheeled security robots.

AFC Chairman Lee Baik-chul, also a professor at the Department of Corrections at Kyonggi University, said the robots will perform simple tasks such as patrolling during night hours and this will significantly help human prison guards focus on other more complex tasks.

“It’s at night when problems can occur. The robots will watch for any signs of suicide attempts or physical attacks on prisoners instead of the human guards. This will allow the human guards to work on more difficult problems such as educational work and counseling,” said Lee.

The robot guard project began as Lee suggested a correctional function be applied to robots for a research project. “I thought, if robots could patrol jails, it would tremendously help ensure safety in prisons,” he said.

The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and SMEC, a robot manufacturing company in North Gyeongsang Province, are also taking part in the project.

They will initially develop three robots. The robots will be able to observe their surroundings through visual software installed in their “face.” The software is an improved version of surveillance cameras.

“When the robot sees something unusual, it will report to the central control facility which will then take action,” Lee said. “These robots can also be a communicating device between the prisoners and the guards. The robots have a speaker and microphone installed on their bodies so that when a prisoner speaks, the guard at the central tower can respond and vice versa.”

Lee said the robot will be able to speak a few sentences. It will be about 150 centimeters tall and weigh between 70 to 80 kilograms. The production of the techno-guards will be completed by next March and three sample robots will be sent to a prison in Pohang for a one-month trial.

“We developed the robot after visiting a few prisons in person and taking a look at the facilities. Since these robots can’t be operated in the older facilities, we developed it to suit some of the newer ones,” said Lee.

When the trial period is over, the Ministry of Justice will decide whether to adopt these robots for use in other prisons.

At a forum today at COEX in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, professors and researchers from various industries and officials from the Ministry of Justice’s correctional department will discuss the “future of correctional science and the development of robots as assistant prison guards.”

“We will make a presentation on the progress of the robot’s development, what prison guards think of the robot adoption and whether it will be possible to utilize the visual technology in the future,” said Lee.
관련 한글 기사

교도소 야간순찰 '로봇 교도관'이 맡는다

격무에 시달리는 일선 교도관의 일손을 덜어줄 '로봇 교도관'이 곧 선을 보인다.

법무부 교정본부는 아시아교정포럼(이사장 이백철 경기대 교수)과 한국전자통신연구원(ETRI) 등이 지식경제부의 지원을 받아 교도관의 단순업무를 보조할 로봇 교도관을 개발 중이라고 24일 밝혔다.

로봇 교도관은 키 150㎝, 체중 70㎏으로 몸체 하부에 달린 바퀴 4개를 돌려 사람의 보행 속도와 엇비슷하게 이동할 수 있으며 얼굴 부위에는 영상감지 및 이상행동 판별 장치가 장착된다.

이를 통해 로봇 교도관은 수용시설 복도를 돌아다니면서 혼거실과 독거실 내 수형자의 상태를 관찰하다가 자살시도나 폭력사태 등 이상ㆍ돌발 행동이 감지되면 중앙통제실의 교도관에게 즉시 통보하는 시스템을 갖추게 된다.

또 원격 대화기능이 탑재돼 수형자와 중앙통제실 교도관을 연결하는 대화창구 역할도 담당한다.

로봇 교도관 설계를 맡은 이백철 경기대 교정보호학과 교수는 "로봇 교도관이 도입되면 일선 교도관들은 야간순찰 등 단순업무 부담을 덜고 수형자 교화나 상담, 행정 등 고차원적 업무에 전념할 수 있을 것"이라고 말했다.

로봇 교도관 개발은 지경부의 '융복합기술기반 교정교화서비스로봇 개발사업'의 하나로 내년 4월 말까지 총 10억원의 사업비가 투입된다.

개발팀은 내년 3월 말까지 로봇 교도관 3대를 제작해 포항교도소에서 시험 운용할 계획이다.

이 교수는 "로봇의 핵심 운영체제는 이미 상당 부분 개발이 진행됐으며 수형자가 친근하게 느낄 수 있도록 세부 디자인 등을 가다듬고 있다"고 말했다.

아시아교정포럼 등은 로봇 교도관에 대한 각계 의견을 듣고자 법무부 교정본부 등과 함께 25일 서울 강남구 삼성동 코엑스 콘퍼런스홀에서 '교정보조 서비스로봇 개발과 교정과학의 미래'를 주제로 토론회를 연다. (연합)


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