How Strong is Korea when it comes to AI Technology?

The future is AI Technology.  Top entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have been talking about the potential value as well as the harm of true AI.  AI represents a major leap forward in how computers can learn on their own.  Currently, there are many computers that can perform a particular task over and over again.  Therefore they are able to learn as they go.  However, that is just one task.

We saw with Google’s Deep Mind that a computer can get smarter by performing many simulated games over and over again.  A self-driving car learns through its owner as well as the environment.  Therefore these self-learning machines can become better drivers over time.  As AI technology continues to advance, how far is Korea when it comes to this breakthrough technology?


Korean AI Technology

So far the best Korean AI system is called Exobrain.  It was developed by the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).  Exobrain recently beat two quiz champions as well as two collegians.  One of them got a perfect score on Korea’s national college entrance exam.  Not only did Exobrain beat the human counterparts but crushed them by getting a score of 510.  To take that into context, the next highest score was 360.  Exobrain won the top prize of 25 million won.

“Exobrain’s victory today is a milestone that marked a new era in Korea’s AI research,” said Seo Suk-jin, director general of the Software Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. “We will concentrate on supporting development of the Exobrain AI system, which will be the key in the fourth industrial revolution, and help it compete with other AI systems such as IBM’s Watson in the industry.”

Exobrain was not perfect as it still got a few questions wrong.  Those questions tended to be more subjective rather than objective.  This will be a relatively easy fix in the future as more data is put into the system.  This will help in its ability to analyze and learn.

So what can Exobrain actually do?  Exobrain can analyze the Korean language and learn from it and constantly improve its analyzation.  Therefore Exobrain has the ability to store large amounts of data which it will use to answer even the most complex questions.

The Korean Government’s Support for AI Technology

The Korean government is heavily investing in AI technology.  They released an AI strategy that would put them as a top 5 contender in AI by 2022.  In order to make this a reality, the Korean government realized that they need more AI engineers.  They have already made plans to build 6 new AI schools by 2020.  This will lead to more than 5,000 AI engineers by 2024.  In addition, the Korean government will focus on AI-based industrial intelligence across all manufacturing sectors.  They have created an AI strategy that will lead to the development of over 2,000 AI-based factories by 2030.  These will be more advanced versions of smart factories.

The data collected from these factories will be stored in a data center to support AI-base services in software, sensors, robots, and equipment.  The Korean government plans to invest over $7 billion in R&D in three main sectors:  non-memory chip, bio-tech, and mobility.  A little under $4 billion will be spent in 2020 in these sectors.  The rest will be used for data, 5G network services, and AI.  Their hope is that these planned investments in core infrastructure and new industries will help innovative growth that will spill over into other industry sectors. One of the first tasks will be to launch an AI research and development complex in Gwangju.