Robotics pioneer believes machines will make us happier

Robotics pioneer believes machines will make us happier


The humanoid robotics lab in South Korea has a mad-scientist feel to it. At the center of it, is a state-of-the-art robot called HUBO, and his creator, Professor Oh Jun-ho. HUBO was relatively unknown until three years ago, when it competed against the best humanoids from around the world, in the first ever DARPA robotics challenge – and won. If you work in robotics, and didn’t know about HUBO, you do now. The DARPA competition won Professor Oh some money, and international attention. But it’s also allowed him to pursue his bigger dream: bringing about a future where robots make us better people. Professor Oh has a lot going on. He’s an amateur astronomer – he’s been chasing and photographing solar eclipses for 20 years. He also plays flute in a choir. And he also runs a company, Rainbow Robotics, which he started in 2011. Oh’s goal with Rainbow Robotics is to build collaborative robots – cobots for short. they don’t look like humanoids they are cheaper, easier to use, and safer robots that are built to operate alongside humans. Oh says the future is going to be filled with robots like this. And it’s a future we shouldn’t be afraid of. The reason he feels strongly about this is he has a larger philosophy about robots: Oh thinks if a robot can do something better than us, we probably shouldn’t be doing it. That we should be focusing on the things that we do better – and enjoy more. Things that require creativity or compassion. And he thinks robots will improve our quality of life in other ways, especially as we age. Oh spent 15 years doing research in mechanical engineering, mostly just working on robots as a side hobby. Then in 2000, he saw something that changed his life: Honda introduced the Asimo robot. Oh applied for funding to build his own robot, but was denied again and again – he had no background in robotics. Eventually he cobbled together enough small grants to build the KHR1. That lead to some more funding, which lead to the KHR2, then more funding, and in 2004, he had built the first prototype of HUBO. Fast forward to 2015, and here he is about to beat 22 robots from some of the most impressive research institutions around the world, like NASA and MIT. Oh still gets excited talking about it. The win changed Oh’s life. HUBO’s too. Raising money became a lot easier, Oh says, not just at KAIST, but for his company Rainbow Robotics, where he’s taking what he learned with HUBO, and putting into a new generation of robots robots that anyone can use, and that he hopes, will make all of our lives better.

20 Replies to “Robotics pioneer believes machines will make us happier”

  1. Not everyone has the capability to be ultra-creative contrary to the belief of engineers. It is the fallacy of "I can do it so everyone can." Only 84 percent graduate high school. You think that 16 percent can develop an app? A robot? A novel? Great art? A symphony? Even a Youtube Video? They can't even commit to completing high school. No, there will be a lot of people made worse off and not just them.

  2. there is little information about small robots like drones that operate on the basis of the swarm. It's nice if you could do the material on this topic

  3. Can anyone tell me why they wouldn’t have a team of machinists on staff? Seems like robotics engineers and machinists would make a good team.

  4. good point of view… that humans shouldn't be doing something that can be done better by robots… we are indeed extremely adaptive

  5. If machines can be a companion that doesn't yell at you and tell you you don't make enough money for the family they just may make people happier.

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