Robot Party: Expanding Robotics attraction in Korea

Beats Bot Band performance at Robot Party exhibition held at Art Center Nabi. (Photo: Rahul Aijaz)

Beats Bot Band performance at Robot Party exhibition held at Art Center Nabi. (Photo: Rahul Aijaz)

With the latest surge of films and TV shows with ‘conscious’ robots, I have developed an interest in the artificial intelligence and well, robots which can perfectly mimic human behavior. When I heard about Art Center Nabi’s Robot Party exhibition, I imagined it to be like something right out of Dr. Krieger’s lab (from the animated television show, Archer): glowing radioactive pigs, holographic Japanese anime girls and cyborgs showing more emotional range than humans. But thankfully (or sadly), it wasn’t that. Instead, I was treated to a wonderful show of a variety of robots, some of which exhibited a very Korean behavior: from drinking soju to making somaek.

Held at Art Center Nabi in Seoul, Robot Party exhibition converged art and technology with an aim to offer a festival where people could have an emotional experience with robots. Under the title of ‘Emotional Intelligence’, the Robot Party brought experiences for the audience, which imitated the concept of ‘conscious’ robot to an extent.

An aptly named robot, Drinky, created by engineer Eunchan Park and team, turned out to be a heavy soju drinker. With its metal hands, it would pour soju in the glass, raise it for a toast and gulp it down in his container, which could contain 20 shots. Another robot, MagentaW – a true Korean I must say – was programmed to make soju and beer cocktail.

Drinky toasts with some of the audience members, holding soju shots.

Drinky toasts with some of the audience members, holding soju shots. (Photo: Rahul Aijaz)

What proved to be another robotics achievement was from a robot, Tasko by Tasko Inc. from Japan: A robot band which played music. Two headless female robots played the guitar as a system of wires and hands played the drums, as the audience and photojournalists fired away shutters and recorded videos.

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A music performance by robot band Tasko, created by Tasko Inc. from Japan. (Photo: Rahul Aijaz)

Another exhibit was the American 19 Doll_Ted Bot, inspired from the talking teddy bear in the American comedy film, Ted featuring Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, as the voice of Ted. One of the project team member Jo dong-gen said, “It has an artificial intelligence ability to recognize human voice. As it is created to make fun of people, you should watch out as he can utter aggressive words. You have to talk with him in English.”

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American 19 Doll_Ted Bot, inspired from the talking teddy bear in the American comedy film, Ted. (Photo: Rahul Aijaz)

X Chair Walker was, as the name suggests, a walking chair. As you move close to it to sit, it walks away from you. Jeon hye-in, staff of the center, said “There is a principle for robots that they should not be able to harm people. But, in this case, the rule has been a little bit violated.”

Art Center Nabi’s 7th Hackathon, the international robot building project which was also part of the ‘party’, brought together six participant teams from Japan, China and Korea, continuing the maker movement in the Northeast Asia, to compete and create robot prototypes.

All in all, more than 50 robots were exhibited, which combined artistic ability of the makers and high-end technology. Nabi aims to spread the ‘Maker movement’ in Korea through this exhibition, with the idea that a new future of society and culture where humans and robots live together is not far away. With open-source robotics, the Maker culture is a new way to create DIY robots with a dramatic decrease in cost. Besides experts, even students and anyone interested can create their own robots.

Robotics is the future. As the Director of Art Center Nabi, Soh Yeong Roh said that besides being industrially used, robots will help in our daily life in the future.

The most beautiful aspect of this is that numerous studies have been going on in the Western world as well as in Japan where scientists have invented robots which are capable of thinking, learning and making decisions by themselves, leading to a new debate about the rights of robots. With its technological progress in electronics, shipbuilding and many other industries, and its 35 year long history of designing and building robots, it should not be too long before Korea jumps in the picture and competes with the latest advancements in robotics industry.

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