Robots may soon replace human guards in South Korean prisons. The South Korean government through researchers at the Asian Forum for Corrections (AFC) is testing the feasibility of using robot prison guards. If successful, the robots will patrol and monitor prisons like regular guards and report on signs of trouble. The robots will alert their human handlers of any potential signs of trouble in the prison halls. The tests are currently being conducted at an actual prison in Pohang. Robots are increasingly playing crucial roles. US roboticists last year used robots to search for victims in two of the most badly damaged cities after the tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan.
The South Korean robots are fitted with sensors for detecting signs of trouble from prisoners in cells. The research was funded by the South Korean government to the tune of $850,000. South Korea suffers a shortage of human guards in its prison system. The development is meant to reduce manpower costs for running prisons and make prisons safer for inmates and guards. The robots are equipped with cameras, a microphone, speaker, circuitry and software systems. The machines are capable of patrolling independently within predetermined areas of the prison.
Most importantly, the machines are equipped with software systems capable of analyzing inmate behavior for signs of trouble. The robots will also serve as two-way wireless communication devices. This will enable inmates and guards communicate without the guard leaving the command center. Through an iPad application, the human guards can also control the actions of the robots. In the future, the robots may be able to perform body searches, for instance frisking inmates randomly for homemade weapons. But even with these advancements, questions are being raised on how dangerous a hacked robot could possibly be.
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