Robots could become as common as televisions in the coming decade for South Koreans. Faced with an aging population and the rising cost of skilled labor, the South Korean government is funding research into robots that could perform more menial jobs like guiding customers or doing security patrols. South Korea's Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC), the same agency that spearheaded the country's successful broadband initiative, is leading the charge with their IT839 strategy.
In the United States, some people have become used to the sight of iRobot's Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner or its bigger brother, the Scooba robot floor scrubber. While certainly impressive, South Korea wants robots that can do much more. In particular, the MIC is aiming for networked robots that can transmit images and sound through the Internet. In addition, these robots are expected to relay messages from children to their parents or even teach English.
Placing robots in every household is part of the MIC's IT839 strategy, a focused effort by the government to place South Korea as the technological leader of the region. Named after its eight services, three infrastructures and nine products, IT839 has already installed inexpensive broadband for many of the country's residents. A networked intelligent service robot is one of the nine product categories in IT839.
The MIC would like robots to quickly appear in households and if government officials have their way, this could happen in just a few years. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Oh Sang Rok, the manager of the MIC's intelligent service robot project, said, "My personal goal is to put a robot in every home by 2010."