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Emotion ITC Industry and Korea

Friday, July 8th, 2011

The renowned American futurist and inventor, Ray Kurzweil, said artificial intelligence of devices or machines will match the human-level by the year 2029.

When looking into the developments of Information Communication Technology (ICT), particularly the Emotion ICT industry, it seems possible that the current ICT industry may be making its move towards Kurweil’s forecast.

The Emotion ICT industry refers to the fusion between two technologies: namely, technology that stimulates emotion such as touch screens and tactile sensing, and technology that recognizes or processes human emotion by measuring biometrics such as brain waves and pulse waves. According to the Korea-based Emotion ICT Association, the Emotion ICT industry is expanding rapidly, the field of mobile phones being at the core of this growth. Based on the group’s report, the worldwide Emotion ICT industry market will show a yearly 118.2 percent growth rate, from 2011’s US$148.6 billion dollars to US$1.279 trillion in 2015. The emotion ICT market in Korea will also expand, from this year’s estimated US$3.7 billion dollars to US$26.8 billion, demonstrating a yearly growth rate of 114 percent.

Also, the fusion between technology and emotion is spreading broadly to other non-ICT industries, such as the automobile, medical, construction, interior and aviation industries. The worldwide market of these non-ICT industries is also estimated to increase, showing a 9.5 percent yearly growth rate from 2011’s US$619 billon to 2015’s US$914 billion. In the Korean market, a 9.7 percent yearly growth rate is expected, from 2011’s US$16 billion to 2015’s US$23.8 billion.

As made evident in the current ICT industry’s tendency toward mass customization, consumers now want a product that perceives their emotions beforehand and fuses their emotions into the devices and services. This can range from a mobile phone manifesting the owner’s emotional state by the colors on the touch screens to a car that prevents an accident by perceiving the driver’s drowsiness, to PCs that read the user’s emotion by their voice and movement – all examples of the Emotion ICT. The Emotion ICT industry advanced from this need of individual customization of its devices and services. Many would agree that one of the biggest developments of ICT in the 21st century is the creation of smart phones. However, the limitation of the current ICT industry, specifically, mass customization, can be easily seen in the smart phone industry as well. As technology and its devices develop and become standardized, more consumers of smart phones will long for a more simple and emotion-adopted technology to satisfy their personal needs.

International institutions and companies including MIT, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz and Sony have been pushing emotion-fused technology as their next-generation project, actively developing the technology. MIT’s Media Lab research consortium, “Digital Life” and “Things That Think” (TTT), are some of the projects that represent the development in this technology. The TTT research consortium vision in particular is to insert computation into daily objects and environments, allowing computational capability to contribute to human creativity and productivity, individual health, and well-being while enhancing learning, ultimately interacting with humans on a deeper level similar to the emotions of the human state. Mercedes-Benz’s Attention-Assist software is also an example of emotion technology that is operated by sensors that determine the driver’s condition. With the data on acceleration, operation of the wheel and turn signals, the software facilitates preventing accidents related with driver drowsiness. In Japan, Sony is developing game software that can perceive the user’s emotion by human language and facial expression, as well.

In Korea, the current Emotion ICT industry development is in its early stage, and the technical skills are estimated at approximately 50 to 60 percent of those of developed countries. On March 30th, at the “Emotion ICT Industry Outlook Forum,” hosted by Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the ministry announced its plans to establish projects of investment, development and policy collaborations among government departments related to Emotion ICT industries. Also, the ministry plans to build a test bed and establish infrastructure for the industry’s development. R&D roadmaps and rolling-plans of these projects will take place. The ministry stated that the gap between Korea and other countries that have advanced Emotion ICT technology may be clear due to lack of core technology such as emotion sensors, but by using Korea’s toplevel IT infrastructure, Korea has a high possibility of becoming a worldwide leader in the Emotion ICT industry in the future.

“Based on the existing skills in the IT field, the economical ripple effect on various industries will be huge when emotion-based technology blends with this [IT] technology,” said Yoo Soo-geun, Director General of the ministry’s Electronics & IT Industries division.

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