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Robo-guard patrols prisoners in South Korea

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A prison in South Korea tested the world's first robot prison guard.

We've all heard of RoboCop, the fictional robot that fights crime. But what about a robot that guards prisoners? South Korea is testing out the world's first robot warden in a prison in Pohang.

Developed by the Asian Forum for Corrections, the machine is equipped with 3D cameras, a microphone and sensors to study human behavior. If the robot detects any abnormal prison activity as it's making the rounds, it will record and transmit data about the situation in real-time. From the control room, humans can decide what action needs to be taken.

Reuters reports:

"Lee Baik-Chul, chairman of the Asian Forum for Corrections, a prison technology research group based in South Korea, called the robot a game-changer.

"The purpose of developing this kind of robot is to secure prisoners' life and security and to decrease the workload of corrections officers in a poor working environments."

Prison guards will also be able to communicate with prisoners remotely using the two-way wireless system to communicate with a prisoner without having to leave the control room. And although a robot can control prisoners autonomously, a human guard has the option of manually controlling the machine with an iPad.

A field trial of three robots took place in March and cost 1 billion won ($864,000).

An article in BBC reports that South Korea has made several investments in recent years to develop its robotics industry.

"The county's Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in January that it had spent the equivalent of £415m on research in the sector between 2002 and 2010.

"It said the aim was to compete with other countries, such as Japan, which are also exploring the industry's potential."

Next up for South Korea's robotics industry: robots that conduct body searches.

'Robo-guard' on patrol in South Korean prison  [Reuters]

Photo via Asian Forum for Corrections

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Amy Kraft

Weekend Editor

Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure