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Looking Back On Samsung’s Lost Personal Robots (part 1)

Back in 2001 when personal robots by SONY and NEC were making headlines, lots of companies were looking at the home robotics market as a new and potentially profitable industry. Samsung is one of the more prominent companies that began developing household robots specifically to compete with them, and unveiled prototypes at the KOFA (Korea International Factory Automation) exhibition that year.  There were several varieties, including the iComar (internet COmmunicable Mobile Avatar Robot), ANTOR (ANdroid TOy Robot), and a robot pooch.  In the above photo, the original iComar is smaller than the iComar2.

As an edutainment robot for children, the iComar had a built in Pentium MMX 266MHz CPU.  It stood 60cm (2′) tall, weighed 10kg (22 lbs), and was able to move its head and arms independently.  Sensors included a camera, microphones, piezoelectric sensors for touch, and 9 ultrasonic range detectors for obstacle detection.  It could navigate the household autonomously and had state of the art speech recognition, so that children could easily command it to perform various functions (such as playing music).  Another idea was to schedule the robot to turn on appliances, like turning on the lights and air conditioner close to when you’d usually return home.

As it’s acronym suggests, iComar was able to connect to the internet to allow live two-way video chats on its LCD screen (back then connections were still dial-up, so the video feeds were small and would hiccup).  Parents could also take control over the internet, setting way points for it to move around the house.  If it detected any unusual activity during the day, it would sound an alarm and send a text message to its owners.  In the event of a break-in, video stills taken of the intruder could be immediately retrieved.

Although they appeared at other events, such as the Int’l Intelligent Robot Exhibition (IIREX 2002), the iComar was never commercialized.  Which is too bad, because I love the cute design!  Its contemporary rival, Yujin Robot’s iRobi, would continue development and eventually become one of the more prominent platforms in Korea’s R-Learning initiative.

ANTOR was a bipedal humanoid with 20 degrees of freedom that stood 35cm (13.7″) tall and weighed 2kg (4.4 lbs).  It was capable of the same sort of movements one would expect of a hobby-level humanoid kit, and could be controlled using a remote.  It was being positioned as a toy, but it had educational applications as well.  A simple PC interface allowed anyone to program new motions.

It was scheduled to hit store shelves no later than summer of 2002. If they had been marketed, they would have preceded famous hobby kits including Kondo’s KHR-1.   Though not much more sophisticated than hobby kits today, given its timing it would have been much more expensive than a toy, which is probably why Samsung didn’t have much confidence in it.

Videos of the iComar and a silly Home Security Robot Dog follow after the break, along with more photos.

[source: Samsung (JP)] via  [Donga, Hellodd, KBench, Buyking (KR)]

Video (iComar, from Mokwon University):

According to a report on Mycom Journal, this is Samsung’s “Home Security” robot dog.

Video (Security dog):


Image credit:
Mycom Journal

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