Hyundai Motor Group (HMG), together with affiliate Kia Motors, said it was innovating with robotics technology through development of the Hyundai Vest Exoskeleton (H-VEX) wearable industrial robots.
The automaker said that, following a demonstration of its Hyundai Chairless Exoskeleton (H-CEX) at a North American factory last August (it has a Hyundai car assembly plant in Alabama and a Kia facility in Georgia), the company plans “to verify H-VEX’s success through extensive testing at the end of 2018”.
In early 2018, HMG identified Robot-Artificial Intelligence as one of five areas of future innovation and growth. The company established a designated robotics team in its strategic technology headquarters to focus on the development of related tech, and is expanding its cooperation with associated sectors.
The automaker said it was developing technology in three areas of robotics: wearable robots, service robots, and micro-mobility. It is also working with other domestic and international companies which possess robotic and artificial intelligence technology.
The first H-CEX was developed for industrial use. It is a knee-joint protective device that helps maintain a worker’s sitting position. Weighing 1.6kg, it is light yet highly durable and can withstand weight of up to 150kg. With waist, thigh and knee belts it can be easily fitted and adjusted to the user’s height.
Along with the H-CEX, HMG plans to test and apply the H-VEX in its North American factories at the end of the year. H-VEX is a device that alleviates pressure on workers’ necks and backs by adding 60kg of strength to the user when their arms are used overhead. It is expected to be very effective at preventing injury and increasing work efficiency.
HMG reckons there are a variety of other applications and fields for which robots can be developed, such as wearables, service robots and micro mobility. At the 2017 Consumer Electronics show (CES) in 2017, it showed off its Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton (H-MEX), which assists paraplegics and elderly people with walking and traversing staircases which currently in the process of being approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in Korea, and by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for commercialisation as a medical device.
Another HMG robotics development, the Hyundai Universal Medical Assist (HUMA), can be applied to the waist and legs to strengthen the muscles while walking, enabling users to achieve a running speed of 12km/h, making it one of the fastest wearable robots in the world.
Other than wearables, robots that can improve the quality of a user’s life are being created. The ‘Hotel Service Robot’ can, among other functions, take care of room service and guide guests around a hotel. The robots will be tested at the end of the year at South Korea’s Haevichi hotel and resort, and the Rolling Hills hotel.
The Sales Service Robot which was modelled last year can explain car details to customers. It is equipped a with natural language conversation system, artificial intelligence, and a mobility function, providing the ability to consult with customers about vehicle models in showrooms. It is currently in the design and development stage, and a prototype is expected to be available early next year. A prototype ‘electric vehicle charge manipulator’ that automatically charges an electric vehicle when it stops in front of the device, will also be previewed by 2020.
HMG’s ‘robotic personal mobility’ is a next generation, single person mobility platform claimed to be so versatile it can slowly traverse with two wheels to avoid obstacles indoors, and then morph into a three wheel mode of transport with improved stability for use outdoors.
HMG said it was taking substantial investments in the robotics field, considering it one of the promising fields for mobility, and actively securing related technologies.
On 10 September, it initiated a strategic investment in the US-based artificial intelligence technology start-up Perceptive Automata to secure human movement prediction technology. The company is also cooperating with China’s top vision technology equipped artificial intelligence start-up, DeepGlint.
A US$4.5m AI Alliance Fund was created with SK Telecom and the Hanwha Asset Management company to invest in promising start-ups with competence in artificial intelligence and smart mobility.
“The field of robotics has the potential to usher in a new era in our industry. The possibilities for the technology are endless”
Youngcho Chi, EVP of strategy & technology division and CIO at HMG, said: “The field of robotics has the potential to usher in a new era in our industry. The possibilities for the technology are endless – from future mobility solutions and industrial productivity aids to vital military applications, we think the future is better with robots. The huge collective experience within the group will facilitate rapid progress in the coming years. We are excited about current developments, and very optimistic for the use of this technology to improve lives around the globe.”