South Korea robotics companies have started an ambitious program to ship one robot in every home by 2020. You can hear about their results regularly in robotics blogs, and have enjoyed a few commercial successes already.
While some of the South Korean giants like Samsung and Hyundai are of course taking part in the robotics effort, there are also many smaller companies that are being very creative and automate more tasks everyday.
Let's see a little more about the big names first, and then show some of the creative, sometimes strange ideas they have for their robots.
As I said, some big players from Korea are interested in robotics. The electronics giant Samsung is in the race for vacuum robots with its NaviBot. The robot vacuum cleaner has a camera that looks at the ceiling and use SLAM technology for Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (which enables the robot to learn the configuration of the room and localize itself).
You may know about the Hyundai cars. And just like many Asian car-makers, they also have their own industrial robots line, with quite a big choice.
Finally, DasaRobot is more specialized in robotics. Besides the standard line of industrial robots, DasaRobot also produces some service robots, like the famous Genibo robot dog. It also offers a robotic guide that was tested in Incheon Airport (Seoul's international airport).
A naked Genibo by DasaRobot
There are quite a few startups with creative (sometimes strange) ideas for their robots.
I'll start with Windoro, since their window-washing robot (see left) is ready to be sold already. It seems to aim for the buildings and shops with big window store fronts. I am still not sure about their positionning though, since they were strangely evasive when I asked who they wanted to sell it to. But that could also be because they couldn't explain in English (I met them at the International Robot Exposition in Tokyo).
I don't have any images nor names, but I have read that a company is making English teaching robotsa aimed at replacing the expensive English teachers coming from abroad. You may know that many (MANY) foreigners living in Asian countries make a good living teaching English (even I do, actually). It seems their robot could be cheaper and would be just as good as a foreign teacher.
Another company you may like is Robotis, famous for its Bioloid hobby robots line. Their core technology is the Dynamixel servo motor actually, which are very convenient. Instead of linking all the servos to the microcontroller, you can link them in series, making only 1 chain for each limb. That means that if you have a leg with 5 servos, you only have cables between 2 consecutive servos, instead of 5 cables that go up to the microcontroller. And cables are heavy and cumbersome, always in the way. So it helps making sweet designs. Also, these same Dynamixel servos are used for the popular Darwin-OP robot.
There are many Korea robotics companies out there, but I can't list them all here. I want to talk about some of their research robots.
Indeed, South Korea has become quite good at humanoid robots over the past decade. The KAIST (Korean Advanced Instutite of Science and Technology) has come up recently with the Hubo II, an 1.5m tall robot that can run... slowly (3.5 km/h).
Another research project is about making prison warden robots. It seems like a strange idea, but the project is clearly ambitious. So whether it makes it to the market, it will still help the South Korean robotics companies and research groups to develop advanced robotics technologies.
Other pages you may like:
Japanese robots and companies are even more advanced than Korea, with the best humanoids worldwide.
The dog robot Genibo by DasaRobot is described here, along with the older dog robot Aibo from Sony, Japan. These are very cool robotic pets.