(LEAD) Samsung to work on wearable robots, continue strategic chip investment
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SUWON, South Korea, March 15 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. will beef up its robotics business this year to more proactively respond to a future where artificial intelligence-powered machines will take a more important role in human life, its chief executive said Wednesday.
The South Korean tech giant "will strengthen core technologies necessary to develop various robots, and expand our product portfolio to enable users to have useful experiences (in the field)," Han Jong-hee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, said at an annual shareholders meeting in Suwon, 34 kilometers south of Seoul.
"We will push ahead with a variety of projects this year, including wearable robotic devices," he said, adding, "We are seeking to make intelligent robots that can evolve by interacting with users and operate according to users' needs."
On the hugely popular ChatGPT, an AI-based chatbot system launched by OpenAI, Han said it will have a positive impact on Samsung's chip business.
"I think we can create synergies between ChatGPT and our services. The AI model is expected to have very positive impact on chip demand in the future," he said.
At the shareholders meeting, Samsung shared downbeat forecast for its chip business this year but said the world's largest memory chip maker will try to "turn the misfortune to our advantage" by continuing its investment to secure clean rooms and technology advances.
"We will be flexible in executing infrastructure investment given volatile market conditions, but we will maintain our efforts to secure clean rooms and investment for the future," said Lee Jung-bae, president of Samsung's device solution division that oversees the chip business.
Samsung forecast the global chip market to shrink 6 percent on-year to reach US$563 billion this year, due to a sharp drop in demand.
"We expect difficult conditions to continue throughout this year, due to various global issues like the Russia-Ukraine war and rivalry between Washington and Beijing," Lee said. "Persistently high interest rates will further dampen consumer demand for IT products and our clients will continue to adjust their inventories, leading to a further cut in demand."
For all the unfriendly factors to its business, Samsung said chip demand will remain relatively robust in emerging and high-tech sectors like 5G and AI in the mid-to-long term.
Earlier in the day, the South Korean government unveiled a plan to build the world's largest semiconductor cluster in the Seoul metropolitan area, as part of efforts to secure a competitive edge in the sector and bolster its own supply chain.
Samsung is expected to spend 300 trillion won (US$229.81 billion) over the next 20 years for the envisioned chip cluster, which will be built in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, to harbor five advanced chip fabrication plants and around 150 materials, parts and fabless companies.
"Cutting-edge industries are a core growth engine, as well as a security and strategic asset, and directly connected to our jobs and the public's livelihoods," South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said during the 14th emergency economic and public livelihood meeting held at the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae.
"We already possess world-class technological and production capabilities in several areas, such as memory chips and OLED displays. The government must firmly support the private sector's investment for further growth," he said.
Separately, Samsung also said it will build semiconductor packaging plants and research centers in Cheonan and Onyang in South Chungcheong Province.
Samsung runs chip fabrication plants in Yongin's Giheung, Hwaseong and Pyeongtaek, all in Gyeonggi Province.
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