10 amazing inventions from daily life in South Korea
1. Infection Control Robot
The invention: Keemi is the world’s first 5G-based infection control robot with a real-time locating system. AI (Artificial Intelligence) facial recognition technology allows Keemi to detect gatherings of four or more people and identify whether someone is wearing a mask, and to issue verbal requests for social distancing and mask wearing in these situations. Equipped with ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces for 24-hour infection control and a thermal camera for monitoring body temperature, the autonomous mobile unit is suited for use in a range of environments, including hospitals, airports, and workplaces.
The team behind it: Keemi is the product of a collaboration between Yongin Severance Hospital, SK Telecom and Omron Electronics Korea that began in 2020 under the South Korean government-funded Digital New Deal project. Yongin Severance Hospital was built specifically as a “smart hospital” with 5G network infrastructure to develop IT (Information Technology) features for future use.
Commercialization: In April 2021, SK Telecom signed a business agreement with steel manufacturing company Posco to install Keemi in factories across the country. In addition, SK Telecom is collaborating with Yongin Severance Hospital to have Keemi roam the hallways of the hospital, interacting with patients and visitors.
2. Inflatable Isolation Wards
The Invention: KARE (Korea Aid for Respiratory Epidemic) Mobile Clinic Modules were designed in response to negative pressure ward shortages, serving as a bridge between COVID isolation facilities and hospitals. The modules can also be used as intensive care units as each module may be configured to serve unique needs. The basic Mobile Clinic Module (MCM) unit is made up of an anteroom, a toilet, and a patient room, which can be set up in approximately 15 minutes. A basic MCM intensive care ward can be built with eight basic units in approximately two hours.
The team behind it: Professor Nam Tek-Jin of the Industrial Design Department at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) led the project, which is part of KAIST’s New Deal R&D Initiatives that concentrate on driving new technology for the post-coronavirus era.
Commercialisation: From its conception in July 2020, MCMs took only a year to reach commercialisation. Today, the basic MCM unit can be acquired for approximately US$635,000, a fifth of the cost of a conventional negative pressure ward renovation. As of September 2021, the modules were in use as a special community treatment centre in Gyeonggi Province, and other hospitals have acquired MCMs since.
3. Innovative Educational Device for Blind and Low Vision Users
The invention: The Dot Pad is an assistive technology device for users who are blind or have low vision. Its versatile multi-line tactile display is a world first, according to creators Dot Inc. Not only does it enable users to read texts ranging from emails to lengthy books via Braille, it translates visual data into a tactile form. Designed with educational settings in mind, the Dot Pad makes it possible for students to view mathematical shapes, charts, and graphs in real time as they are displayed on a digital board in a classroom. It also means students can design their own visual elements in programs like Excel, KeyNote, or PowerPoint.
The team behind it: Established in April 2015, Dot Inc. is a certified B corporation founded by Kim Eric Ju Yoon and Sung Ki Kwang.
Commercialisation: In June 2021, Dot Inc. signed a $30 million contract with the US Department of Education to advance Braille education and technology by supplying Dot Pads to US schools for four years starting in 2022.
4. Accessible Tech For Reading and Seeing by Touch
The Invention: SENSEE Editor is software that converts eBooks into accessible formats for readers with visual impairments. Previously, producing printed Braille content could take between six months and a year. This meant that a university student with visual impairment who requested a Braille textbook might not receive one until the semester was over. SENSEE Editor, however, can convert over 300 pages of standard digital text to a digital Braille file in 30 seconds.
The team behind it: SENSEE Editor was developed by publishing company SENSEE, which was established in 2015 by Victor Insik Seo and Alice Jiyun Cho.
Commercialisation: SENSEE produces Braille books through a print-on-demand service.
5. Wrap-Around Movies
The Invention: ScreenX provides the world’s first 270-degree panoramic cinematic experience by expanding the screen onto the side walls of the theatre. Special teams assist production crews so the films can be shot in ScreenX format or converted during post-production. The films are then distributed through an integrated system called ScreenX Solution, which orchestrates image correction, playback, management, and more to work with the existing digital system.
The team behind it: ScreenX was co-created in 2012 by Seoul-based cinema technology company CJ 4DPLEX and Professor Junyong Noh and the Visual Media Lab from KAIST Graduate School of Culture Technology.
Commercialisation: Since the first ScreenX cinema was opened in South Korea in 2012, more than 50 films have been released in ScreenX format and the technology has been adopted around the world. As of October 2021, ScreenX can be found in 318 theatres in 34 countries.
6. Flexible TV Screen
The invention: LG Display’s Signature 8K OLED TV first entered the scene as a prototype introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2021. At the press of a button, the screen slowly rolls into the base, then unfurls at another press of a button in 10 seconds. (It can withstand being rolled up 100,000 times according to testing.) This luxury tech item was created in response to the rising interest in flexible display technology as well as the demand for incorporating television into the aesthetic design of the living room.
The team behind it: South Korean-based company LG Display is one of the largest manufacturers of OLEDs, flexible displays and thin-film transistor liquid crystal display panels. LG Display was originally established in collaboration with LG Electronics and Dutch-based Philips in 1999.
Commercialisation: The Signature 4K OLED TV was brought to the market in 2019. While initially priced at US$8,000, the final product retails for US$100,000, equipped with Dolby Vision, 120Hz 4K gaming, variable refresh rate, and HDMI ports. Each TV is built to order from Gumi, South Korea.
7. Smart Glasses Reimagined
The invention: Augmented reality (AR) smart glasses change how you see the world around you, literally, by overlaying computer-generated or digital information on the real world. Potential applications range from location services to advertising, education and gaming. LetinAR’s PinMR lenses were invented to address common issues found in current AR optic technology, such as narrow field of vision, poor colour expression, high prices due to a complicated manufacturing process, and bulky hardware. The inventors were inspired by the pinhole effect, in which looking through a tiny hole results in a clearer image of an object. But instead of pinholes, they used tiny mirrors in their lenses, which direct light rays from a micro-display into the pupils of the wearer. The result is smart glasses that offer extended depth of field and high optical efficiency, and look much like a conventional pair of glasses.
The team behind it: Jaehyeok Kim and Jeonghun Ha co-founded LetinAR in October 2016. In 2020, they were featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia List.
Commercialisation: Since its launch, LetinAR has raised US$13 million. The company currently designs, manufactures, and supplies PinMR lenses on an on-demand basis.
8. Software that Predicts Cardiac Arrest
The invention: VUNO Med–DeepCARS is an AI-based medical device that analyses the potential risk of cardiac arrest based on four vital signs: blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and body temperature. By analysing electronic medical records, the device predicts the likelihood of patients in general wards experiencing cardiac arrest within the next 24 hours. This provides constant monitoring of patients even as resources are stretched thin during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team behind it: Led by Chairman Yeha Lee, CEO Hyun-jun Kim and CTO Kyuhwan Jung, VUNO is a Korean start-up that entered the AI medtech scene in 2014.
The commercialisation: In August 2021, VUNO Med–DeepCARS received regulatory approval from the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. The device is expected to be ready for commercial deployment in the Korean market, primarily in the general wards and nursing homes where monitoring resources are limited, in the second half of 2021, and hit overseas markets in 2022.
9. Recharging Roads for Electric Vehicles
The invention: On-Line Electric Vehicles or Open Leading Electric Vehicles, aka OLEVs, are capable of charging wirelessly when moving or stationary. Shaped Magnetic Field in Resonance (SMFIR) technology allows the transfer of energy from a power grid embedded under the road to pick-up modules on the underside of the vehicle. Recharging OLEVs this way eliminates the need for charging stations and requires a far smaller battery size compared to other electric vehicles.
The team behind it: The first OLEV system was developed by a team led by Professor Dong Ho Cho of KAIST in May 2009. Today, the OLEV system is manufactured by WiPowerOne, a KAIST spin-off company led by Dong Ho Cho.
The commercialisation: The OLEV project has received approximately US$69 million in funding from the South Korean government. OLEV buses were used for public transportation in various places in South Korea, including the KAIST campus, but most notably in Gumi City, a smart city in central South Korea. The project’s expansion was put on hold due to battery issues and the cost of purchasing electric buses, but in July 2021, the OLEV project recommenced in Daejeon, South Korea’s fifth largest city.
10. Greener Steel
The invention: FINEX is a cleaner, cheaper, and quicker steel smelting method, invented to address environmental issues and remove the need for expensive, scarce high-quality coal. By only heating and reducing iron ore with a special reduction gas inside the furnace – no raw material pretreatment required – and using low-grade bituminous coal and iron ore powder, FINEX plants are said to release 12% less CO2 than traditional smelting plants.
The team behind it: Researchers Joo Sanghoon and Shin Myoung Kyun of South Korean-based steelmaking giant Posco, and Andreas Schmidt from Siemens VAI Metals Technologies GmbH (Austria) collaborated to create this new metallurgy process.
Commercialisation: In 1992 the South Korean government invested approximately US$19 million in the project. Over a decade and US$845 million later, the method was finalised in 2003 and put into operation. In 2007, the second plant began operating with updated technology, and in 2014, the FINEX 3 Plant went into operation.
Source: Sarang Park from The Brilliant (November 3, 2021)