Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Scientists draw code of ethics for robotics

Seoul: With the advent of robots in the service sector – from those guarding borders to those caring for the elderly – their interaction with humans is on the rise.

Now, South Korea – which has set an ambitious goal of a robot in every home by 2013 – is attempting to draw up a code of ethics for robotic technology.

“We are setting rules on how far robotic technology can go and how humans live together with robots,” said Kim Dae-Won, a professor at Myongji University who heads a team of 12 scientists, doctors, psychologists and robot developers that is writing what it believes will be the world’s first Robot Ethics Charter.

It will be released by year’s end.

“A society in which robots and humans live together may come soon, probably within 10 years,” Dae-Won said.

Many scientists expect the use of babysitting or dishwashing robots by 2050.

The Korean charter will set guidelines to curb the use of robots for undesirable or dangerous purposes.

“The purpose of this charter is to find ways of coexistence between humans and robots, not to restrict the development of robotics,” Kim said.

Key considerations include ensuring that humans maintain control over robots, preventing their illegal use, protecting data acquired by robots and ensuring they can be clearly identified and traced.

Military robots will require separate rules not covered in the charter, Kim said, as the question of legal liability may create hurdles.

Future Robots, now South Korea last year unveiled a high-tech, machine gun-toting sentry robot designed eventually to support troops guarding their borders.

Min Young-Gi, a manager of the Korea Advanced Intelligent Robot Association set up by manufacturers, does not oppose a charter but noted: “The robot industry requires practical guidelines, not a broad, non-binding declaration.

” The association forged a deal with a nursery school chain in July to provide 8,000 network robots that are programmed to play with or teach kids, and provide extra security.

Korean scientists have developed a variety of robots – some devoted to work and others to play.

The state-run Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed EveR-2 Muse, a robot version of a woman in her 20s who can hold a conversation, sing a song, make eye contact and express emotions.

Claiming a breakthrough, KAIST said in July it had developed an artificial brain system which enables a robot to make a decision based on context, or check its surroundings before opting how to behave.

Also, about 300 Korean scientists are working on developing robot caregivers which could tackle chores and monitor the health of the elderly. The project is due for completion in 2013.

Sim Hag-Bong, director of the Commerce Ministry’s Robot Industry Division, said the proposed charter “reflects our determination to secure the upper hand in the field of service robots.”

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