The phone-controlled robot cleaner developed by KTF and Yujin Robot.
By Cho Jin-seo
People buy a robot vacuum cleaner either because they think it is convenient or because it looks futuristic and cool. But now there is another reason to consider buying the machine: it can guard your home by detecting and scaring off unwanted visitors.
KTF and Yujin Robot said on Tuesday that they have co-developed a robot vacuum cleaner that patrols the house and sends alarm messages to the owner's cellphone when detecting the motions of objects with its motion sensor. Furthermore, owners can remotely move the machine around from outside with their cellphone keypad, rather like playing with a remote controlled car.
KTF, which began Korea's first third-generation video-phone service this spring, provided mobile telephony technologies for the vacuum-cleaning guard dog, while Yujin developed its hardware and software. The firms will showcase the product at the BcN Conference next week at Lotte Hotel in southern Seoul.
The basic idea of this multi-purpose home robot is to put a mobile phone inside a robot cleaner, said Je Kyung-il, manager of KTF's networking business. There is a microphone and a speaker as well.
``There is a WCDMA modem inside the robot cleaner, so you can make a call to it just like you would call another cellphone. When the call is connected, then you can control it via the telephone network, and see through its camera just like making a video call.
``So if the robot detects a break-in, you can move in the robot to the scene and see what happened.''
Commercial robot vacuum cleaners were introduced about five years ago by several companies. Roomba from iRobot of the United States and Trilobite from Sweden's Electrolux were among the pioneers in the field. Korea's Yujin Robot is selling its iClebo cleaners, and big firms like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are also in the business.
The robots are designed to rove about the floor and suck up dust and debris into their dustbin. Most are able to navigate around furniture and automatically returned to their charging station when they start losing power, so it is not hard to use them for patroling home.
High prices and relatively weak sucking power were the two main factors that have hindered the growth of this type of cleaner. But KTF expect that more people will be tempted to buy it when it can be used for other chores, such as guarding the home, and talking with children who are too young to use mobile phones themselves.
The companies have not yet disclosed the price and launching date of the cleaner. But it will be a reasonable price, Je said.
The Ministry of Information and Communication partly funded the project.