Is That a Nightstick in Your Pocket or are You Just Happy to See Me?


So we’re not fighting a war against the cylons or any kind of AI just yet.

Nor do we have armies of robots fighting for us, yet.

But we’re getting there.

South Korea has announced that it will begin using robots as prison wardens.

Pohang, a city in eastern South Korea, will debut three robo-guards for a month-long trial beginning in March. Produced by the Asian Forum for Corrections, these robots stand five feet tall, weigh approximately 165 pounds, and move on four wheels. They’re equipped with a speaker, microphone, motion sensors, and cameras for monitoring and transmitting video footage of any “abnormal” behavior, such as fighting or suicide attempts. In the event of any risk or strange activity, the robots can contact human guards to assess and deal with the problem.

Between now and March, scientists will refine the robot to make it seem “more friendly” to inmates. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea…. Perhaps they should consider teaching the robots how to trade cigarettes for information instead.

South Korea schools have also experimented with using OFRO, the first outdoor security robot, to monitor school grounds and students. OFRO was also the official security robot of the 2006 World Cup.

South Korea aims to be at the forefront of robotics and is currently using robots to teach English, among other things. South Korea hopes to export their robotic inventions, and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology’s Humanoid Robot Research Center recently shipped their Hubo robot to a half-dozen universities in the US. They’re also currently developing robots that can provide personal care and assistance both in the home and in the office.

South Korea also has plans to build a robot theme park. Visiting could like being in an episode of Futurama, in which case I’ll be first in line.

The park won’t be open for a while, but perhaps a little jail time in a South Korean prison might tide us over. I also can’t help but harbor a silly hope for a cage match between the robot warden and R2D2 or a Dalek. After a few months in prison, I’d bet on the robo-guard.

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