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YOUR NEXT CUTE ROBOT MAY BE KOREAN

BESTIE BOTS Pibo, at right, is the third generation of Circulus’s robots.

Pibo and Cubroid are friends. In a country where three giant conglomerates (LG, Samsung, and Hyundai) suck up most of the engineering talent, these two pint-sized little robots could be the future of Korean hardware innovation.

Pibo is a 3D-printed, Raspberry Pi-based “family companion” that can use the internet to answer questions about your world. Cubroid is a bunch of robotic blocks that help kids learn how to program using physical objects. The two are part of a small club of companies in Korea’s new startup scene, which is dominated by software and services.

In a presentation, consultant Nathan Millard of G3 Partners says there’s been a massive upswing in the number of Korean startups in the past five years, with more than 20 accelerators, a vibrant investment scene, and major government support. When I visited the startups behind Pibo and Cubroid, I found a new Digital

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