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Whatever Happened to Sejong Robotics?

Robotics start-ups have it tough even in South Korea where they enjoy enthusiastic government support.  Take Sejong Robotics for example, one of many businesses that quickly vanished into the ether.  Back in 2006 they presented a pair of household robots, Libero and Kipro, that like these robots from Samsung never made it in the real world.

Libero is one of many early childhood education robots that were being developed at the time, which have since been whittled down to a few major contenders.  To its credit, Libero had a few features which made it stand out.  Most importantly it doubled as a vacuum cleaner with both suction and a brush.  Cleaning up any dirt or dust seems like a no-brainer for these kinds of robots since they scoot around low to the ground, and children have to sit on the floor to play with them.  Designed for ages 4~7, Libero had a flexible online content model that would regularly update the robot’s lessons and games to extend its use.  The company planned to implement a video phone function and other internet-based features, all accessible through the built-in touch screen.

Libero could move its head around like most of its competition, but where they usually have LEDs for their facial expressions, Libero had moving parts for eyebrows and lips.  It was further distinguished from many similar robots in that it had two arms with three degrees of freedom apiece (shoulder x2, elbow x1) that allowed it to perform a variety of gestures.  All things considered, it seems as though Libero could have been successful if South Korea’s R-Learning initiative had come sooner (which aims to put robots in every Korean classroom).

The other robot may have been doomed from the start.  Kipro was a security guard robot that provided mobile video surveillance and could fire an amusing burglar-catching net in an attempt to immobilize fleeing thieves.  It was remote controlled, lacking any autonomous functionality.  It had a pair of simple arms that it could swing back and forth as it moved, and could probably hold a simple tray for delivering things.  Maybe it could have taken advantage of the current mobile telepresence craze, since it was approximately 120cm (4′) tall, and came with both a pan-tilt camera head and a large video screen.

What with their website ceasing to exist and their robots quickly fading into obscurity, perhaps Sejong Robotics was simply a casualty of being ever so slightly ahead of its time.  More photos follow after the break.

[sources: Aving, 2, Etnews (KR)]


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