This October 18th is the beginning of the second Robot World, held in the COEX Convention center in Seoul, South Korea. It is a mark of the newness of the robotics industry that this convention has only been held once before, and a sign that whatever will happen in the robotics industry will happen now and in the future.
Everybody wants to see and know robots. Children play with toys that represent robots even when they are children. The idea of a perfect mechanical servant that does everything its owner commands it to do is not difficult to grasp, and in fact it fires up the imaginations of even the most jaded people.
This Robot World 2007 seems to have fired up the imaginations of quite a few people. There are a few slogans on the conference's web site (www.robotworld.or.kr) that paint a very rosy picture indeed. Apparently, this convention will be both "The infinite zone of imagination and joy" and "The global village festival uniting humans and robots." COEX isn't exactly infinite, but it is pretty big, with more than 50,000 square meters in total.
There are going to be a lot of booths, at least. This year for the International Robot Industry Show, there will be over 520 booths will be set up by 110 exhibitors. That is almost exactly five booths per exhibitor. There is no data yet on why each exhibitor will place five different booths, but check the magazine next month for more information on that.
The Korea Robot Conference will also be massive. Approximately 1,000 papers will be presented to 3,000 expected attendees from 30 countries. If this is similar to other conferences, all 1,000 papers will be published and bound together in one massive volume, surely a collector's edition and future antique.
There will be a third aspect of this allencompassing show, the most fun and interesting for its participants without a doubt. The International Robot Contest will hold a grand total of eight competitions in 29 different fields. The competitions have very interesting names, such as Grand Challenge, Robotpiad, Robofest, Intelligent SoC Robot War, FIRA Challenge Cup, and URC Robot Contest. If attendees are lucky, they will get to see both robot parties and robot wars. There are at least 40,000 spectators expected.
The FIRA Challenge Cup is sure to be interesting. FIRA stands for the Federation of International Robot-soccer Association. They are an organization which was started by Professor Kim Jonghwan at KAIST in 1995, and the end goal of the organization is to eventually create a team of soccer players who can beat the best human World Cup soccer teams.
They have a long way to go, but the most exciting of their matches are when 6 small box-like robots with wheels go up against 6 more that look like them and, networked to and directed by a central computer, play soccer breakneck speeds that only 2 inch square wheeled robots can reach. Another interesting event to look forward to of course is the URC Robot Contest. URC stands for Ubiquitous Robotic Companion, and these are the ancestors of what will some day be an indispensable home appliance. URCs, after all, are destined to become the perfect servant. Watching a contest to see which robot can be the more perfect servant is interesting for any person.
These many events will be spread all across the COEX Exhibition center, taking up almost all available space for four days straight. It is not often that a single event takes up all of COEX, as the center is used to running 5 or more events at the same time.
What to expect
The state of the robotics industry is not what it should be. There is no other way around it, it must be said. With the amount of dreaming made in popular entertainment and the number of promises made by researchers for the past 50 years, the general population simply expects much more than the industry delivers.
Ask the most technologically challenged person around you what they think of when they hear robot, and they will easily spout off a list of features that are almost impossible for current and near-future technologies to live up to.
But robots do seem to be having little trouble filling other roles, although they aren't traditionally ones that are considered to be robotic roles. At the Robot World 2007 there will most definitely be dancing. Synchronized dancing routines performed by robots are remarkably easy to implement and are also quite impressive in their execution.
There will also be a lot of toys. Robots are doing well as toys that have limited functions and usage. Toy animal robots and toy robot robots will most likely be popular. Robots as toys can pretend to be the toy version of a larger robot that does not yet exist, and children have no problem with that.
There will most likely be educational robots on display. Educational robots are just an extrapolation of current online and multimedia educational technologies, but even more effective. A stylized head and a good speaker and video system can bring a boring lecture to life, and capture the attention of children easily. Robots are also now being used in experimental health care related ways. Expect to see robotic assisted living items such as robotic beds, wheelchairs, and other small devices that can aid the disabled and elderly.
Elementary school students can attend the convention for free from the 19th to the 21st, while members of the general public must pay an admission of 3,000 won (US$3.27), but groups can receive a 33% discount. October 18th is called Business Day and the admission on that first day is 10,000 won (US$10.88).