RO­BOTS RULE

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - GARY SHTEYNGART

South Korea is the most robot-friendly coun­try in the world. Just ask the hu­manoid Hubo.

South Korea is em­brac­ing smart tech­nol­ogy and ro­bots. A visit to its cap­i­tal city can be a mind-bog­gling ex­pe­ri­ence

stream of emo­jis and self­ies. I ex­pect her to be a teenager, but when she gets up to go, I re­alise she must be well into her 50s.

I am my­self not im­mune to the plea­sures of ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy. At home, my toi­let is a Ja­panese Toto Wash­let with heat­ing and bidet func­tions. But the Smart­let from Korea’s Dae­lim puts my potty to shame. It has a con­trol panel with close to 20 but­tons, the func­tion of some I can’t even guess.

I en­counter the Smart­let while tour­ing the lat­est in Seoul’s smart-liv­ing apart­ments with a real es­tate agent, Lau­ren. Some of the most ad­vanced apart­ments have been de­vel­oped by Raemian, the prop­erty di­vi­sion of the mighty Sam­sung.

The Raemian build­ings are buffed, gleam­ing ex­am­ples of what Lau­ren refers to as the ‘In­ter­net of Things’. When you pull into the garage, a sen­sor reads your li­cence plate and lets your host know that you have ar­rived. An­other fea­ture mon­i­tors the weather and warns you to take your um­brella. An in­ter­net-con­nected kitchen mon­i­tor can call up your ­favourite cook­book.

Apart­ment own­ers wear wrist­bands that al­low them to open doors and ac­cess ser­vices in the building. The tech­nol­ogy works both ways: in­side the apart­ments, you can check on fam­ily mem­bers through GPS track­ing.

I ask my guide, Sunny Park, a reporter for the Cho­sun Ilbo news­pa­per, whether Kore­ans are re­sist­ing the con­tin­ued diminu­tion of pri­vacy. “They don’t mind Big Brother,” she tells me. Sunny, of a slightly older gen­er­a­tion, ad­mits that she can some­times run into trou­ble nav­i­gat­ing the brave new world of Korean real es­tate. “I once stayed in an apart­ment that was too smart for me,” she says. “I couldn’t fig­ure out how to get water out of the tap.”

ONE MORN­ING I take a gleam­ing high-speed train to the Korea Ad­vanced In­sti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, an hour south of the city. I

92 P. |

The Dong­dae­mun De­sign Plaza is an iconic land­mark of the Korean de­sign in­dus­try

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