The world-renowned robotics engineer Dennis Hong (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department at University of California, Los Angeles) recently made a visit to Korea. He explained that he made this visit to his home country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic because he was “selected an honorary ambassador of Seoul.”
Currently in the development of a humanoid robot, Dr. Hong appears to be quite busy. Dr. Hong was named Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10,” and currently serves as Founding Director of UCLA’s RoMeLa, a globally renowned robotics laboratory. He developed the world’s first unmanned vehicle for the visually impaired.
Dr. Hong was confident that robots would play a positive role in the midst of disasters, like the COVID-19 pandemic, and has claimed this to be true in the US as well.
“Dangerous tasks, such as disinfections of areas hit by COVID-19 or the nursing of patients, can be accomplished by robots rather than people. Video conferences and distant learning have been spotlighted with the growing emphasis for contact-free life, and robots will help double the effects of these tasks.”
He clearly made the distinction between tasks that could be accomplished by humans and tasks that robots could replace humans with. One example is the mental health campaign that helps console citizens who are weary from the prolonged COVID-19 crisis.
“The robot can look after people. However, there are things that people do better and things that people must do. The act of sympathizing, communicating, and embracing others is not a job for robots but for humans.”
We asked Dr. Hong on his impression of Seoul’s success of maintaining daily routines through thorough distancing in daily life without lockdowns.
“It’s outstanding. Seoul is doing the best in the world. I was impressed by the wearing of masks and the use of QR codes to enter facilities. Seoul is indeed making such efforts, but I feel that all this was possible because the citizens cooperated with the city. I give at least 200 out of 100 points for what the city has accomplished.”