I recently had the opportunity to travel to South Korea to look over LG's work in both the AI and robotics fields, including some detailed time with its LG CLOi Airport Guide Robot. That's a design that LG has iterated on over time, and I had the chance to sit down for an interview (via a translator) with Hyungjn Choi, LG's Leader of Life support Robot Biz. That's a fancy title to say that he's in charge (in his own words) "of robot business development and product planning" at LG. Robots in industry are nothing new, but people-centric robots are a tough challenge. Mr Choi is quite clear that the first robot was the toughest. "Technically speaking, the most difficult one is the first one that you can see when you arrive (at Seoul's Incheon International Airport), the Airport guide robot.
LG's vision of the future is filled with intelligent robots that help you manage your life more efficiently. This vision sounds expensive, but LG's new lineup of robots, unveiled on Wednesday, is the stuff we come to CES to see. First there's the Hub Robot, which also comes in mini models that you can deploy throughout your house. The main bot is supposed to be stationed somewhere your family regularly congregates, like the living room, though it's mobile. The Hub Robot is a sleek, small bot with a round display.
The rise of robots hasn't exactly gone smoothly, but companies are determined to get it right. Today, LG announced that it's deploying a fleet of robots at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea. This isn't the first we've heard of these adorable robot friends. LG announced them earlier this year, and they've been hanging out in the Seoul airport for the last five months as part of a beta test. During that time, LG engineers have been testing and improving their performance, while the robots presumably loitered and caused trouble.
Last year at CES, LG introduced a bunch of new robots because, as near as we could tell, LG figured that robots were cool so they'd better make some robots or something. The most photogenic (and smallest) was Hub, which bore a striking resemblance to Jibo, but we also met two burly service robots designed to work at airports. For CES 2018, LG is adding three more robots to the CLOi (that's pronounced KLOH-ee, obviously) family. New this year are the Serving Robot, Porter Robot, and Shopping Cart Robot, "developed for commercial use at hotels, airports, and supermarkets," and it's definitely not a coincidence that they're just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where LG is also based.
But they did not imagine one thing: that the first places where humans and humanoids interacted would be airports. Robots now do things like scan boarding passes and provide duty free shopping advice. For many people, this will be the very first chance to interact in an everyday context with robots designed to mimic human behavior. Many of us have cleaning robots at home, of course. They are able to roam around, avoiding furniture and any other obstacle -- and that's kind of like one of the robots you'll find at Seoul Incheon airport, one of the busiest in the world.