For four years now Lee Soon-geul, Professor in the College of Mechanical and Industrial System Engineering of Kyung Hee University, has been working to standardize the ideas related to robotics in Korea. He has wrestled with identifying and defining the important issues surrounding robotic development.
For instance, Professor Lee gave a precise definition for the new robotics buzzword intelligent robot. "Actually an intelligent robot is a kind of robot for use in an unstructured environment," Lee said. However, there are not yet any intelligent robots available commercially. "A lot of researchers are developing and still studying robot intelligence and want to produce that kind of intelligent robot," he explained further.
Professor Lee Soon-geul is a true pioneer in this sense, laying the groundwork and standards for technology that has not yet been developed. But why would someone develop standards for something that does not yet exist When asked, Professor Lee explained by saying: "Because to make standards after a product is already established is very hard. At that time a lot of companies ignore them and they want to use their own company standards." But company standards have a history of conflicting with each other, and it is very hard to get companies to work together after products are already on the market.
He has already made much progress. In the past four years he has already been able to develop seven national standards for the intelligent robot, and according to the Professor this was the most difficult part. As he said: "National standards are hard to make, but we already made seven standards related to Intellectual robotics." Altogether his organization has made 35 different standards related to robots in general.
The Korean Intelligent Robot Standard Forum (KIRSF) is the organization Professor Lee refers to. With over 100 members and over ten meetings per year, the Forum has been quite busy. Their objectives are fourfold -- to create a collaborative system for the study of intelligent robot standardization, to analyze the international trends of technology and standards, to establish the group and national standards of robotics, and enforce the international activity around robot standards. So far KIRSF has managed to classify robots in four different categories. The first, personal service robots, refers to any robots that provide services around the house such as cleaning or guarding. Also educational, fitness, and entertainment robots fall under this category. Finally, robots that are designed for assisted living and information services are also personal service robots.
The second category is professional service robots. These robots would perform similar functions of the first category but in a business or other public environment. Stricter measures of control should be used with these robots to ensure that they are safe for public use.
The third and fourth categories for robots are industrial robots, which are already widely used and understood, and networked robots. This last category of networked robots refers to robots that are more like puppets connected to a computer in another location through the strings of a wireless network connection. These networked robots are part of the ubiquitous home dream that so heavily influences Korean IT currently.
But categorizing robots is not all of the work of KIRSF. The organization is also very concerned with safety issues regarding robots. The Professor said that there could be some clashes between robots and people, similar to the stories in popular fiction now. "Even for friendly robots, it is very important to consider some kind of safety problem first.
Because you can program robots to do anything, even if that means killing people," he said. And while there are currently early designs for military robots, the Professor said that most robots will not be designed to hurt people. Therefore, he is working to develop testing and evaluation methods in order to certify robots for safety and to determine their capabilities.
In every new discipline, someone must move ahead to draw the path for others. In robotics, it is Professor Lee Soon-geul and the Korean Intelligent Robot Standard Forum.