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SKorea draws up code of ethics -- for robots


Published :
Tue, 07 Aug 2007 04:43
By : Agencies
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SEOUL (ThomsonFinancial) - South Korea, at the forefront of the drive to develop robots which can do anything from guarding the border to caring for the elderly, is now drawing up a code of ethics for them.

The nation, which has set an ambitious goal of a robot in every home by 2013, has launched a project to write what it believes will be the world's first Robot Ethics Charter. It will be released by year end.

'We are setting rules on how far robotic technology can go and how humans live together with robots,' said Kim Dae-Won, a professor at Myongji University who heads a team of 12 scientists, doctors, psychologists and robot developers.

'A society in which robots and humans live together may come faster than we think, probably within 10 years.'

US software mogul Bill Gates has said the robotics industry is on a threshold similar to the one seen in the world of computers 30 years ago. Many scientists expect the use of dishwashing or babysitting robots by 2050.

The Korean charter will set broad guidelines to curb the use of robots for undesirable or dangerous purposes.

'Robot ethics are part of human ethics. The purpose of this charter is to find ways of coexistence between humans and robots, not to restrict the development of robotics,' Kim told Agence France-Presse.

Key considerations are ensuring that humans maintain control over robots, preventing their illegal use, protecting data acquired by robots and ensuring they can be clearly identified and traced.

Military robots will require separate rules not covered in the charter, Kim said, as the question of legal liability may create a hurdle for manufacturers.

South Korea last year unveiled a high-tech, machine gun-toting sentry robot designed eventually to support troops guarding the heavily fortified border with North Korea.

Min Young-Gi, a manager of the Korea Advanced Intelligent Robot Association set up by manufacturers, does not oppose a charter but noted: 'The robot industry requires practical guidelines, not a broad, non-binding declaration.'

The association has been involved in a government project to develop software and technological standards for robot models which are compatible with communications networks and electronics equipment.

'The market for consumer service robots is up there,' Min said, citing a deal his association forged with a nursery school chain in July to provide 8,000 network robots over several years.

These are programmed to play with or teach kids and provide extra security.

South Korea, which trails Japan and the United States in the science of robotics, must capitalise on its prowess in information and communications technology to develop consumer service robots, Min said.

Manufacturers support the government's drive to nurture the robot industry as a new growth engine. Since 2004, the government has injected about 100 billion won (108 million dollars) into the industry each year.

About 300 scientists are working on developing robot caregivers which could tackle the chores and monitor the health of elderly people. The project is due for completion in 2013.

A 100-billion-won robot fund will be created in December to encourage innovation. South Korea also aims to build the world's first robot theme park called 'Robot Land' by 2012. So far, 11 provincial governments and cities have put in bids to host the park.

Buoyed by government support, Korean scientists have developed a variety of robots -- some devoted to work and others to play.

The state-run Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed EveR-2 Muse, a robot version of a twenty-something Korean woman who can hold a conversation, sing a song, make eye contact and express emotions.

In June a robot named Tiro acted as master of ceremonies at the wedding of one of its creators.

Another robot called OFRO was to be deployed as a security guard at a South Korean school in what its creators said was a world first.

Claiming a breakthrough, KAIST said in July it had developed an artificial brain system which enables a robot to make a decision based on context, or check its surroundings before opting how to behave.

Sim Hag-Bong, director of the commerce ministry's robot industry division, said the proposed charter are flects our determination to secure the upper hand in the field of service robots.'

Local scientists concede Japan is strong in humanoids while the United States is superior in highly complicated multi-function robots and military models.

'But we saw an equal opportunity in service robots. I bet South Korea, currently the world's sixth largest producer of robots, will become the first country to open a full-fledged market in this sector,' Sim said.

afp/cl

AFP

-- by Lim Chang-Won --

cl

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Copyright AFX News Limited 2007. All rights reserved.

The copying, republication or redistribution of AFX News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of AFX News.




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