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Now it’s time to take a look at a Korean business bringing about changes in the global economy with some new ideas.
Today, we’re going to introduce you to Wonderful Platform, a developer of artificial intelligence-based care robots and services. Let’s hear from vice president of the company Hwang Seong-taek.
Wonderful Platform is an AI service platform provider that owns an AI-powered senior care robot called Dasom and its service platform, AVAdin. South Korea is becoming a super-aged society, with the number of single-person households on the rise. Recently, demand for non-face-to-face services has grown rapidly. Amid the drastic change in society, the company seeks to create social value using AI technology and data and to grow into a leading global firm in AI care services by securing global competitiveness based on technological innovation. With this vision in mind, it was established in January 2016.
In 2019, the company carried out a project to take care of older people living alone in Gimpo using Dasom. In 2020, it expanded its business scope to care services for vulnerable groups in society in Tongyoung, including senior citizens living alone, those with disabilities and single-parent households, also using Dasom and AVAdin. It also began to provide a welfare guide service, which delivers various welfare programs of local governments to the socially marginalized.
1.67 million South Koreans aged 65 and older live by themselves in 2021, up 24 percent from 1.35 million in 2017. Last year, a total of 1,385 people living alone died unseen, without anyone knowing. That’s 1.7 times higher than the figure recorded in 2017. A lot of people spend their later years all alone, but there are not enough policies for those people.
At present, one social worker is in charge of 20 senior citizens. In some regions, a social worker takes care of as many as 30 people. The workers call them twice a week and visit once a week. But the system is simply inadequate to address problems of older people living alone, such as loneliness and passing away alone. The Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to provide better treatment and care-giving to more seniors living alone by increasing the number of beneficiaries to 902-thousand by the year 2022. In reality, though, the welfare budget is not enough, considering the rising number of older people living by themselves.
Dasom was created to fill that void. Wonderful Platform CEO Koo Seung-yeop floated the idea of the care robot while he was thinking about his mother-in-law who lived alone in Cheonan. Senior citizens who live by themselves have no one to talk to.
As a sort of companion robot, Dasom makes phone calls to the users’ family members based on the voice-activated ordering feature. Video calls are possible, of course. It can play the users’ favorite videos, teach them how to exercise and read out the Bible or Buddhist scriptures. It also helps users lead a regular life, notifying them of when to take medicine and have a meal. It transmits the data about their life patterns to their family members. Another useful feature of the robot is to relieve loneliness of seniors living alone by keeping them company.
Dasom with an AI chatbot not only answers the questions of the users but also speaks to them first so older folks feel like living with their own family. Dasom accumulates and learns data about the users’ speech patterns. Therefore, the more it’s used, the better it can understand users. If a user says “help,” the robot recognizes it and sends an emergency message to his or her guardian or an emergency control center. If it does not detect any movement of the user for some time, it automatically makes contact with the user’s guardian. The guardian can monitor the situation remotely through Dasom to see if something urgent is happening. Notification is sent to guardians during the day, when necessary, while it is sent to emergency control centers at night so senior citizens can be monitored and protected around the clock.
Currently, the Dasom service is provided to some 3,000 senior citizens through 56 local governments and public health centers. Dasom has gained the spotlight amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted in-person activities and care-giving services.
With demand for non-face-to-face care services rising, more and more people are looking for Dasom. For instance, it is sought after by parents whose children have developmental disorder. For those users, the company plans on providing customized care services by adding social competence promotion programs and some content designed to improve cognitive function to the robot.
Wonderful Platform continues with research and development in order to enable many more people to enjoy various services easily and conveniently.
People use Dasom on small screens now, so users with limited vision may find it rather inconvenient. We’ll launch a new service that connects Dasom with TVs so it can be used on a larger display. We also plan to expand our O2O service portfolio to enhance quality of life. Older people who have mobility difficulties may order food and other daily necessities or make a reservation for transport simply through voice commands. AI can even recommend goods or services, based on the data from previous orders. We’re envisioning a metaverse system that connect the real and digital world for senior citizens so the older generation can stay connected with society, transcending the limits of time and space.
We continue to accumulate data through care services in operation. A DNA analysis of the collected data or the incorporation of microbiome data may expand our services to customized medical care or preventative medicine. For that purpose, we’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with Macrogen, a leading South Korean biotechnology firm.
Wonderful Platform holds a total of 69 patents and 80 percent of its employees engage in research and development. The company’s sales continue to grow significantly even in the pandemic.
South Korea is not the only country grappling with an aging population. By establishing a local subsidiary in the U.S., it is aggressively exploring the American market. It is also preparing to tap into the global market through partnerships with companies in Japan and Hong Kong.
According to a U.N. report last year, the share of the global population aged 65 or older is expected to rise from 9 percent in 2020 to 16 percent in 2050. Dasom and AVAdin support all languages, so I think they can increase their presence in the silver economy market around the world. AI-based platforms can provide any services. For example, care services can be extended to data analysis, healthcare and metaverse services. Based on its AI platforms, Wonderful Platform seeks to help the elderly, children with developmental disorders, and other vulnerable groups lead healthy lives. In doing so, it hopes to grow into a unicorn company.
For many people, AI and robots still sound unfamiliar and difficult. Wonderful Platform is using the cold technology to the make the world a warmer and better place to live. With its AI robot Dasom, which means “love” in Korean, the company is dreaming of platforms that connect family members. Through this company, family members will hopefully feel each other’s warmth without limits in time and space.