SEOUL, KOREA – Since Steve Jobs first unveiled Internet-based smartphones that integrated music, video, a camera, computer, and even GPS navigator, few would deny that the convergence of mobile devices have brought about a paradigm shift in the way we work and live. You may wonder now what will come next following the smart society. Se-kyong Song, CEO of Future Robot is confident that we will be moving into the robotics era, where human and robots co-exist, over the course of the next decades. “When it comes to the potential of robot convergence, it cannot be compared to smartphones. As almost all electronics can be integrated into robotics with human-robot interaction (HRI) technologies, the convergence is essentially limitless.”
FURO is the representative interactive robot capable of providing multiple services by reading users’ intentions in different situations. This man-like robot perceives users’ movement, face and voice, and then conveys the matched dialogue, facial expression, movement, and necessary information. They can freely move with wheels, switch directions, and change facial expressions in different situations. It dances to the music, has tears in their eyes when the visitors are about to leave, and its mouth and eyebrows move as they speak.
At hotels or shopping malls, FURO provides information services, automatically recognizing the people around it. When visitors come closer, FURO approaches them, nod in greeting, and explain the main services in a speaking voice while showing the related images on the display screen it holds. At restaurants, FURO can replace waiters. Customers can select the menu on its display screen and swipe their card on the card readers. When the robot prints out receipts from the built-in printing device, the order will automatically be delivered to the kitchen. At exhibitions or museums, FURO can provide multiple information services in 30 different languages to foreign visitors.
Although capable of performing a multitude of tasks, its management is as simple as smartphones. The Internet-based software can be remotely monitored and maintained without the hassle of going to maintenance centers. Users can also customize their software by adding or designing their own application.
FURO Goes Global
Being presented at CeBIT in March this year, FURO was the first Korean robot unveiled in the European market. This man-like robot fascinated European buyers with novel and innovative ideas. “It was very exciting for us to show our technologies and also gain more innovative ideas from them. One buyer from Brazil who ordered over 100 FUROs came up with new business model – mobile (moving) advertisements. As FURO moves around in airports or exhibitions, they said, the back screens which are remotely operated can be utilized for advertisements while the front screen performs ordinary information services,” Song said.
Thanks to the successful debut in the European market, FURO was again invited to Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), one of the world’s largest trade shows for consumer electronics and home appliances this September. “At the IFA Tech Watch Forum, where noteworthy new technologies are presented, FURO was deployed to provide information service for the participants. For these participations, it was a unique idea that a robot can replace human ushers in the exhibition, and some even hoped to see them at next year’s IFA saying that the venue is so expansive that visitors can easily get lost and pointing out the difficulty of deploying attendants at every corner of the exhibition.” Following the participation at the international exhibitions, demands from overseas countries significantly rose. The company has already supplied to France, Japan, China and Brazil and are negotiating with additional 20 countries.
FURO-K, Smarter and Friendlier Kiosk
Future Robot recently unveiled a new robot, FURO-K (Kiosk) which is smarter and friendlier than ordinary interactive kiosks you see at hospitals, schools, or hotels. Adding to the functionality of FURO, FURO-K carries out various tasks such as printing A4 paper, reading IC and NFC, as well as credit card payment. More appealing, however, is its humane and friendly character. Most customers tend to receive service from employees and opt to wait in a lengthy queue rather than using kiosks. FURO-K is innovative in that they approach people instead of just standing still and tell them in a pleasant voice what they are able to do, such as issuing certificates or prescription. This gives people a feeling that they are dealing with a human. On its launch, FURO-K was sold to major hospitals in Korea and is due to provide services this month.
Dr. Song is a well-known robot expert in Korea, possessing an esteemed career background in Samsung Electronics and Philips in intelligent service robot sector after completing a PhD from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Spearheading the national robotics projects jointly with the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE), Future Robot has obtained over 20 patents, as well as received various awards from the MKE and Small and Medium Business Administration. Later this year, Future Robot plans to launch Android-based smart education robots and elderly care robots integrated with u-health devices backed by the company’s innovative ideas and technical expertise.
“The key strength of Future Robot, in my opinion, is its HRI technology which is compatible with all other robots. As Steve Jobs ushered in a new smart society with the convergence of art and technology, I hope that Future Robot will pioneer the new robot age with the convergence of robots and technology.”