Lifestyle & Belief

South Korea: make way for robot prison guards


A Science Museum employee plays a game of 'paper scissors stone' with BERTI the robot at The Science Museum's Antenna Gallery in London. Feb. 17, 2009. BERTI is a life size humanoid robot built to mimic human gestures.


Peter Macdiarmid

Not sure what's more amazing. The fact that South Korea has robot prison guards (a matter of time?), or the fact that their robot prison guards sort of look like Teletubbies (adorable yet unnerving).

According to press on the matter, these robot prison guards are meant to be more nice-looking friendly helper than scary baton-wielding warden.

And they look it. Here's a photo courtesy of Yonhap:


Time reports that the robots are designed to go up and down the halls of prisons, monitoring conditions and detecting any "sudden or unusual activity" of the inmates.

"The robots are not terminators. Their job is not cracking down on violent prisoners. They are helpers," said Prof. Lee Baik-chul of Kyonggi University, who is in charge of the 1 billion-won ($863,000) project.

"When an inmate is in a life-threatening situation or seriously ill, he or she can reach out for help quickly,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

The robots, which stand around 5 feet tall, will be tested out at a jail in the city of Pohang, southeast of Seoul, in March.

More on Asia's digital life:

In Thailand, the rise of the robo-waiter

Photos: Fading line between robots and humans

South Korea education: schools go digital