Inside IT
Life Care Robots with Endless Possibilities: Your Daily Lives with Robots

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘robot’? I bet you imagine a moving humanoid machine like those commonly seen in movies and animation.

Even though robots are not that common in our lives yet, there are various types of robots around us already. These robots that help us in our daily lives are called life care robots. Today, let’s learn about the basic notion of life care robots and their various forms.

Life Care Robots in Our Daily Lives

Life expectancy is getting longer and the elderly population is increasing lately, thanks to advances in science and technology. We notice that the quality of our lives is getting better as well. Recently, a Korean TV show about older celebrities backpacking around the world drew a lot of attention from the public for reflecting this reality.

These days, it is known that people look for ways to live healthier, happier, and more easily. This is why paying attention to life care robots designed to directly assist people in their everyday lives. Life care robots are basically ‘intelligent robots that help people with their daily lives and housework’ which covers everything from helper robots and ride able robots to muscular robots and cognitive bio robots. Cognitive bio robots are especially under active research lately.

Helper robots: Silbot and Ciros

By speaking of Korea’s precedent, one of the most well known robots in the helper category is Silbot, which is being developed by the 21C Intelligent Robot Program of the Korea’s most represented science institute, Korea Institute of Science and Technology(KIST).

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Features of Silbot (Source: http://www.irobotics.re.kr/sub1_1)

Silbot stands for ‘a friend for the silver generation’. This robot comes to the user each morning and says ‘Good morning, it’s time to wake up!’ It also automatically saves weather information, TV schedules, and daily news to answer the user’s inquiry. This is possible because it was designed to be a network robot based on IT.

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Features of Ciros (Source: http://www.irobotics.re.kr/sub1_1)

On top of that, 21C Intelligent Robot Program also developed Ciros, a home service robot that helps you with dining preparation. Ciros, which is 150 centimeters tall and weighs 140kg, has two cameras on its head as eyes and arms to pick up objects in order to help the users with household chores. When it gets orders like ‘get me a glass of water from the refrigerator’, it opens the refrigerator door and retrieves what the user wants all by itself. It also knows how much strength it needs to pick up certain objects by utilizing the sensors it has on its fingers.

Rideable Robots: Segway BB-Rider and Konan

Segway BB-Rider and Konan were developed by Robo3. BB-Rider is a type of scooter and Konan 4 is a four-footed robot designed to be ridden.

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BB-Rider (left) and Konan (right) (Source: http://robo3.com)

Muscular Robot: HEXAR   

HEXAR, a wearable muscular robot was developed by a research team led by Prof. Chang-Soo Han from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Korea’s Hanyang University in 2008. The industry was blown away by their new creation.

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(Source: http://www.robo-life.co.kr/sub/sub21.html?boardid=board01&mode=view&no=29)

HEXAR is designed based on the mechanism which fundamentally considers the human body structure. It is made into a form of clothing that can be worn and has sensors and robotic joint control technology, in order to strengthen and elongate human muscular strength.

For Endless Possibilities!

Now that we’ve learned about different types of life care robots, let’s take a look at the prospects of the life care robot market. As the population is aging rapidly, businesses for senior citizens are growing dramatically. Many predict life care robots to become a new driving force in the future. Services for the “silver generation” are becoming the mainstream in the market, and the helper robot market is also expected to grow. It is also important to remember that the future of home errand robots is hopeful since a large proportion of women now work outside home.

Demand on life care robots is increasing quickly because of changing life styles and the well-being trend. Many governments also have decided to promote the robot industry by designating it as a new driving force. The global life care robot market which used to be only around $680 million was expected to grow up to $6.86 billion in 2013, and then $43.67 billion by 2018, which is 7 times bigger than that of 2013.

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Size of Korean and global life care robot markets

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Size of Korean and global life care robot markets

Now, let’s see how Korea’s doing. The size of the Korean robot market was about $903.3 million in 2010, which is the fifth biggest in the world, and is continuously growing. The markets for helper robots, rideable robots, muscular robots, and cognitive robots that were mentioned earlier are especially expected to grow tremendously. Korea’s life care robot market has been consistently growing thanks to the government’s aggressive support, small companies’ hard research, and strong interest from potential customers. In order for them to keep growing and enhancing, it needs to secure its own essential technologies and experts.

See your dreams come true!

Robots are evolving as we speak with extensive developments in new technologies. Some of the greatest examples of these are the future robot computer which communicates with humans actively and integrated robot SW platform technology that provides the environment which increases the software’s reusability and compatibility.

There is also the technology that enables natural communication between robots and humans by copying human’s sight and hearing recognition as well as a technology for robot herds that are programmed to work together through a network. There are also ‘seeing eye’ systems for the visually impaired, motion recognition technology that helps you control smart TVs, remote control technology for robots for national defense, and a technology which recognizes a user’s location that are all under active research.

According to the progress of current research, robots will be able to play human roles and make our dreams come true in the near future. How will our lives change once robots become advanced enough to replace humans to provide suited services and accomplish complex missions? I look forward to seeing a world with robots come true soon.

Written by YongJun Park, University reporter for LG CNS

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