January 25, 2005 A humanoid robot developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science (KAIST) has significantly bridged the gap between Japan's advanced robotic technologies and the rest of the world, once again affirming that Korea will be a major player in the fast-growing robotics industry. Developed in just three years at a fraction of the cost of the world's most advanced humanoid robot, Honda's Asimo, KAIST's robot will be known as Hubo. Hubo is a 150cm tall, 67 kilogram prodigy with a natural walk, voice recognition and synthesis faculties and advanced vision capabilities with both eyes operating independently. Unlike any previous humanoid, Hubo's on-board intelligence is largely supplemented a wireless connection to a powerful external server.

The project is headed by Professor Jun-Ho Oh of the Machine Control Laboratoy in the Department of Mechanical Engineeringat KAIST. Professor Jun-Ho Oh gained his Ph.D at Berkeley in California in the mid-eighties and only assembled the Hubo project team at the beginning of 2002. The first prototype, known as KHR-1, was complete within eight months and was walking within 12 months.

The second major version of the robot (KHR-2) was begun in January 2003, and the third revision, (KHR-3) was begun in January 2004, based on the advanced capabilities of KHR-2, but with greatly improved stability. KHR-3 was subsequently renamed Hubo and was shown to the press for the Korean press for the first time in December.

Though not yet as advanced as Honda's Asimo, Hubo is catching up fast - developed at a cost of less than 1 billion won (US$1 million), the robot has 41 degrees of freedom, far more than Asimo, which cost more than US$300 million to develop over nearly two decades.

An in-depth interview with Professor Jun-Ho Oh can be read at the Korean OhMyNews site (in English).

For a wide ranging coverage of robotic industry developments, visit the Gizmag robotics section.

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