South Korean telecom operator KT has rolled out a robot playmate for children in a move seen as cashing in on the potentially lucrative robotics industry. Kibot, which has a monkey face and a display panel on its body, can read books, sing songs, play online games, and wheel around with its cheeks blinking and head tilting.
The robot, which stands about eight inches tall, also allows children to make video phone calls to their parents when an electronic card is placed on its face. Designed for children ages three to seven, Kibot says, “Let’s play” and “It feels good” in response to being patted.
Parents can remotely control Kibot using a mobile phone and monitor children via a camera embedded in the robot, according to KT, the nation’s second-largest wireless operator.
Made by local consumer electronics company iriver, in which KT invested $3.68 million, Kibot costs $447 in addition to the monthly wireless bill.
“Kibot will be like a friend for kids, who constantly need something by their side to touch, see, and play with,” says Seo Yu-Yeol, head of KT’s home business group. The former state-run firm in 2005 developed several robots as part of a national campaign to promote the industry but met with a lukewarm response. Seo said things have changed with wireless networks so common and smartphones ubiquitous.
South Korea last year deployed about 30 robots to teach English to schoolchildren in a pilot project designed to nurture the nascent robotics industry, in which it pledged to invest 100 billion won over three years.