Under the 1 billion won (US$864,080) project organized by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, a group of Korean scientists has been developing robot prison guards, which will be tasked with patrolling correctional facilities, mostly at nighttime, and connecting prisoners with officers through their remote conversation function, the ministry said.
The robots will each measure 1.5 meters in height and 70 kilograms in weight and will travel on four wheels. Their faces will be equipped with sensor-based devices that will enable them to detect abnormal behavior among inmates, such as suicidal behavior and violence, the ministry said. The robot is designed to immediately report such behavior to officers in charge.
"The robot, if introduced, is expected to reduce prison officers' workload so as to allow them to focus more on correction and rehabilitation efforts for inmates such as counseling," said Professor Lee Baik-chul of Kyonggi University, who led the design process for the robot.
"As we're almost done with creating its key operating system, we are now working on refining its details to make it look more friendly to inmates," Lee added.
The ministry said it will conduct a test run with three units at a correctional facility in Pohang, some 374 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in March next year when development is complete.