A team of 14 young people from Cambodia have spent more than a year investing their knowledge, skills and resources into making what is likely the Kingdom’s first locally made humanoid.
The robot had made headlines on social media even before it was officially revealed at the National Day of Technical Vocational Education and Training in mid-June, a Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training event aimed at facilitating skills development in the Kingdom.
Called the Robocam Preah Kossomak, the Western faced humanoid is able to verbally and physically communicate with people. Built one year ago, it weighs 45kg and stands at a height of 1.58m.
It was built by a team of electronic engineers and programmers from Phnom Penh’s Preah Kossomak Polytechnic Institute with a budget of nearly $20,000 spent over a one-year period.
Sokphorn Veha, an electronics teacher at the institute who led the robot building team, told The Post: “Robocam is a humanoid that can communicate with us. He can answer our questions in both Khmer and English. He can recognise people’s faces and call out the correct name of each person. He makes facial contact and he can walk and move his head to follow us.”
The 28-year-old Veha, whose father was an electric and construction engineer, has always been fascinated by electronic toys and robots. As a child, he would disassemble his toys to learn how they work and would be scolded by his mother.
In 2003 he transferred from a public to private school, which is where he first had access to a computer.
“At that time, I started to know how to type on the computer. My friend told me that I can do and learn a lot of things from Google. I was so interested and would search for how to make cars and other stuff – I really liked it,” he said.
Chasing a lucrative job, Veha momentarily left his passion behind as he took the entrance exam to medical school.
“I failed the exam because chemistry and biology are not my strong points. In 2011, I began studying electronics at Preah Kossomak Polytechnic Institute. At first, I was not serious, but later I was hooked by my favourite skills and I really enjoyed my studies.”
His interest in building a robot emerged when he graduated in 2015 and got a job at a beer company.
“It was a push factor that encouraged me to be who I am now. In the beer factory, there are many automated robots to complete the production line. The company invested in technology and I was happy to see more robots adopted,” he said.
So when he became an electronics teacher at Preah Kossomak Polytechnic Institute last year, he formed a team to create a humanoid. He said though the technology is already widespread in the world, his team’s Robocam Preah Kossomak is likely the first made in Cambodia.