Robot guard dog has plenty of byte

Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2004

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) A new household robot guardian won't do the laundry or fix dinner. But the vacuum-cleaner-sized gizmo will instantly notify its master of burglars, fires and gas leaks.

The three-wheeled, cat-eyed machine will provide peace of mind at only a fraction the cost of its Japanese-made rival, according to its maker, the Seoul-based startup MOST-iTECH.

Packed with a small camera, motion detectors and heat and gas sensors, MOSTiTECH's robot wheels around the house, takes snapshots of anything that moves and keeps an eye out for fire and gas leaks.

If anything is amiss, it fires off snapshots or text warnings to the owner's mobile phone.

The robot can also be remotely controlled via cell phone and the Internet, and it automatically recharges itself when its battery runs low, MOSTiTECH president Park Sang-hoon said.

South Korea's biggest mobile carrier, SK Telecom, plans to put the robots on the market by July for about $850. By contrast, Japan's four-legged Banryu costs about $17,800.

Park said his firm is using cheaper and simpler mechanisms, such as wheels instead of walking mechanical legs.

Planned improvements include face recognition functions so the robot can discriminate between unwanted visitors and pets on the prowl when sending alerts.

''For now, users will need to keep their pets locked up when leaving home with the robot on security mode,'' Park said.

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