Korea aims to become one of the world's top three robot superpowers by 2013 and the global leader by 2018. "In keeping with the government's target, the Center for Government Robot Pilot Projects in Korea Institute for Robot Industry Advancement (KIRIA) is going all-out to find out projects for supporting enterprises and promoting the domestic robot market," Dr. Jun Eui-jin, director of the center said.
"As a concrete step, we will stage various activities necessary for growth of the service robot market, including search for new robot convergence services, commercialization support, and linkage with government's policies," he said.
Noting that various industrial sectors should join forces to strengthen the domestic robot industry, Jun said, "Enterprises need to keep market competitiveness and the government should extend its support in a more effective way."
The domestic robot market, which surpassed KRW 1 trillion in volume in 2009, is expected to reach some KRW 1.2 trillion in 2010. Meanwhile, the overseas robot market is likely to snowball from US$ 9.25 billion in 2008 to US$ 170 billion in 2020.
Commenting that the robot industry has a high growth potential, he said, "The most promising industry after five to 10 years will be bio, new medicine and robot industries."
Multi-agency robot pilot project
The Seoul government has been propelling the "three-year multi-agency robot pilot project" since 2011 to create the robot service, which combined R&D results of enterprises and research centers and other industries.
"Based on this, it plans to build a consumer-participating test bed and suggest detailed commercialization models, and create a new robot market," he said. "By doing so, we expect enterprises to make fresh investments in the robot industry and accelerate exports of domestically-produced robots to foreign countries," said Jun.
Stressing that various efforts for convergence of robot and other industries have been made so far, he said, "For instance, robots for teaching aids have been developed and have been playing a role of teacher assistant in the education field. In the national defense sector, robots for border surveillance were developed for exports.
"In the medical sector, laparoscopic surgery has been made through medical robots and the role of cleaning robots is becoming more common in the home service field. In addition, studies on a variety of robot convergence technology have been carried out to produce construction robots and traffic robots," he noted.
Development of green robots
Remarking that the development of robot technologies related to disaster safety has been carried out actively, Jun said, "Domestic research centers and enterprises have already developed fire-fighting robots. Under the leadership of Korea Atomic Energy research Institute, researchers are developing robots to cope with emergency cases at nuclear facilities, including leakage of radiation. "In some advanced countries, fire-fighting robots were already dispatched to fire stations. We are also exerting our best efforts to develop robots for search and rescue," he said.
Asked about the opinion that South Korea is the best test bed for appraisal of robot services, Jun said, "I fully agreed with the opinion. Korea has a high growth potential for development of the robot industry as it has already possessed a global level competitiveness in the IT industry. No country in the world has pushed for a multi-agency robot pilot project, except South Korea."
On the method for the domestic robot industry to advance into foreign markets, he said, "The most important matter to export robots is enterprises' voluntary investment and their cultivation of global competitiveness. To back up such activities, the government enacted the Law to Activate Robot Industry and established the KIRIA in July last year.
"However, there are still many bottlenecks to export robots. First of all, we should solve such problems concerning permission and authorization of robot products and establishment of HS code for exports. At the same time, domestic enterprises need to accumulate their experience for localization of robot products in overseas markets."
RobotWorld 2011, the sixth of its kind, will be held at KINTEX in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province for a four-day run from Oct. 27. About 50,000 Koreans and foreigners from 30 countries are expected to visit the international event to look around new robot products and the domestic robot industry's competitiveness, he said. RobotWorld 2011 consists of an exhibition, an academic conference and a robot contest.
Korea Association of Robot Industry (KARI), Institute of Control, Robotics and Systems (ICROS) and KIRIA will organize the exhibition, academic conference and robot contest, respectively. "Under the pan-agency robot pilot project, we plan to introduce intermediate outcomes of the project carrying story and theme at the RobotWorld 2011," he said.
At present, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are producing cleaning robots. Samsung Techwin, Dodaam Systems, DU Robot, and Hanool Robotics are churning out robots for border surveillance. Meanwhile, Hyundai Rotem, Hyundai Wia, DRB Fatec and UNI are designing robots for disaster relief. Besides, there are such robot-specialized companies as Yujin Robot, Hanool Robotics, Micro Robot and Cosmo Corporation.
Meanwhile, the government plans to replace up to 30,000 human instructors at language institutes with English-teaching robots. The government's goal is to get a service robot into every home by 2020 and one might be "Sil-bot", a companion for the elderly who plays games and maintains simple chitchat.