Many Korean companies are keeping a close watch on Samsung Electronics’ recent moves to develop robots. Although the company is keeping its silence regarding its entry into the robotics market, it seems highly likely that the electronics giant will launch strategic products in response to the movements of major IT companies, including LG Electronics.
Samsung Electronics has been conducting R&D on wearable robots and electric car charging robots. In fact, a robot named EVAR (electric vehicle automatic recharging), which was created by a team participating in Samsung’s in-house venture development program called C Lab, has been disclosed to the public through a YouTube video. Moreover, an industry source has reported that Samsung Electronics Advanced Institute of Technology has also recently tested wearable robots for seniors at a university hospital in Seoul.
However, Samsung Electronics says there is nothing to disclose about the robot business yet. For C Lab, it says it cannot confirm anything since it is before a spin-off for commercialization and the same goes for wearable robots, which are still in a developmental stage. Although the company dabbled in the robotics business in 2005 by participating in the public helper robot project, the company currently has no robot business to speak of, except the robot cleaner business.
However, recently, the company has shown some moves under the table to enter the robot business. The future science and technology support list announced by the company included research on electric field driven polymer actuators (prime movers) by Professor Park Moon-jung of POSTECH chemistry department. This is one of the core technologies used in manufacturing wearable robots. Earlier this month, the company made an announcement that it is planning to establish a new artificial intelligence (AI) research center in New York to focus on robot engineering. The company has also invested in technology venture companies including Intuition Robotics, an Israeli AI robot company.
The industry foresees that with major IT companies competing to launch robots, Samsung Electronics will also introduce AI-combined high-performance robots in the near future.
Meanwhile, LG Electronics has already shown its wearable robots that assist walking, along with guide robots and cleaning robots, at the recent 2018 Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) in Berlin, Germany. At the exhibition, Sony's dog robot “Aibo” received positive responses, while several home appliance companies from around the world, including China and Turkey, displayed their robots.
In this regard, Kim, Hyun-seok, president of Samsung Electronics' consumer electronics (CE) division, said in a recent press conference, "It's hard to say specifically at the moment, but AI will be used in various fields, and robots will be one of the most important applications." However, he said securing AI competitiveness should come before robot development.