The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Google planning OS for robots: engineer

By Kim Young-won

Published : June 26, 2014 - 21:00

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Internet giant Google Inc., with its unceasing appetite for robotics, may be developing an operating system exclusively designed for robots, according to renowned robotics engineer Dennis Hong.

He based his speculation on the recent string of robotic companies that Google has been purchasing, including U.S.-based Boston Robotics and Japan’s SCAHFT. In a similar vein, Google on Wednesday introduced its new operating system for wearables, TVs and cars at its annual developers conference.
Dennis Hong delivers a speech at an information and communications technology conference held by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning in Seoul in May. (MSIP) Dennis Hong delivers a speech at an information and communications technology conference held by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning in Seoul in May. (MSIP)

The Android operator appears to be seeking new business opportunities while maintaining its foothold in the field of operating systems, Hong stressed in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Hong was named one of the world’s 10 brilliant young scientists by Popular Science, the world’s largest science and technology magazine, and is referred to as a “robotics genius,” due to his works in humanoid robotics.

He also garnered much attention when his team of engineers developed the world’s first vehicle in 2011 for the blind and won the global robot competition RoboCup on three occasions.

Hong urges his fellow Korean robotics researchers to search for new things, rather than becoming fast followers.

“Korean researchers are very experienced and hard-working, but it is hard to find something new from their research,” said the robotics professor, adding that this is because the research environment in Korea is far from ideal.

As a case in point, he mentioned a team of talented researchers from Samsung Electronics who developed a humanoid robot, called Roboray, in 2012.

Due to a lack of a long-term support and attention, the talented research team had to disband and Roboray ended up stashed in a warehouse.

Giving advice to members of the young generation in Korea who are often discouraged when trying to get into the engineering sector due to the small financial rewards and relatively low social status of engineers, he said “I want to ask the young generation to pursue happiness, not money,” Hong said.

“Like superheroes in movies who save people’s lives and solve problems with superpowers, engineers do the same with different means like mathematics and science. Doing such things is what make me thrilled and happy,” he said.

With great power comes great responsibility, so engineers should be responsible for their research and always think about the potential ramifications of their research results, he added.

Hong, who has recently moved his lab to UCLA from Virginia Tech Institute and State University, said he wanted to develop medical and entertainment robots, for which UCLA and California, home to Hollywood, are famous.

A UCLA research team led by Hong is scheduled to participate in the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a global competition for disaster-response robots, in June 2015.

By Kim Young-won (