December 19, 2023 08:11
Seoul's flashy Gangnam area has become a test bed for robots as restaurants and coffee shops eliminate human staff while delivery bots roam the sidewalks.
To celebrate the dubious achievement, the district office held a three-day robot festival last month. The office also brought in a robot to guide visitors and residents there, while refiner GS Caltex decided to build an automated logistics center at a gas station in Seocho that can handle 3,600 packages a day.
A dozen delivery robots are at work at COEX. Operated by Baedal Minjok and LG, they mainly deliver food within the complex traveling at 7 km/h, which is roughly walking speed. The robots can ride elevators and open doors. "They send signals to operate elevators and automatic doors. If there are obstacles, the sensors are activated to avoid them."
Other robots specialize in outdoor deliveries, stopping at crosswalks and calling customers to tell them their order has arrived. Customers push a button on the robots that open a hatch with the delivered food.
Gangnam is at the forefront because the atmosphere is supportive of start-ups and because it is close to the manufacturers. Nearly all robot start-ups are concentrated in parts of Gyeonggi Province that are close to southern Seoul.
Han Jae-kwon at Hanyang University said, "The high population density and abundant skilled professionals make Gangnam an attractive area for the development of the robotics industry."
Kim Yong, who runs a small restaurant using robot chefs, said, "Launching a start-up in Gangnam is great for attracting investment and recruiting talent, even if the rent is expensive."
And Cho Seong-myeong, the district chief, said, "Robot businesses are already mushrooming here in Gangnam. With more incentives I will make Gangnam a driving force in the robotics industry in Korea."
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