South Korea plans robo-cops to police prison

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, January 6, 2012 17:06 EDT
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South Korea's robotic prison guard. Photo: ETRI.
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The South Korean Ministry of Justice is hiring, but they’re not looking for human help at the moment: they want robo-cops.

In an announcement late last year, South Korean officials said they would be deploying three autonomous robot guards at their prison facility in Pohang. The guards are to monitor cells for suspicious activity and alert humans on staff of any trouble.

Developed by the Korean Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) at a cost of about $875,000, the forthcoming robo-cops stand about five feet tall and stream live video of what it sees to a remote location. They’re also equipped with a microphone and speaker, so guards can communicate with prisoners, and vice-versa.

Robotic prison guards are seen as preferential to humans because they cannot be bribed, don’t take breaks and never get sick.

There are downsides, however: a tech-savvy prisoner may one day figure out how to sabotage the robots, or find a clever way around its surveillance methods, causing the guards’ reliance on their tech to become a downfall.

If the trial program succeeds, it’s likely to be adopted in other South Korean prisons. Officials said they planned to deploy the robots in March.

(H/T: Singularity Hub)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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