Naver is demonstrating its presence in the field of robots and autonomous driving, which it began investing in over seven years ago. Robots are living with employees in the company’s second headquarters,
“1784,” completed in June last year, and robots are expected to be used to move heavy servers in the data center “Gak Sejong,” which will be unveiled in the second half of this year. Naver plans to sell its advanced technology, including robots used in the two buildings, to other companies.
Naver Labs is at the center of Naver’s robot technology research. In 2015, Naver announced its “Project Blue,” a plan to invest $76,587,000 over five years in the fields of robots and unmanned vehicles. Subsequently,
Naver Labs, an internal technology research institute, was spun off as a separate subsidiary in January 2017, and accumulated technology capabilities. It also acquired Xerox Research Center Europe, one of the world’s four major artificial intelligence research institutes. Over 100 experts, including Dr. Florent Perronnin, a former Facebook AI Research Center director, are dedicated to researching AI and robots.
The result is the cloud-based robot control system “ARC.” ARC can control hundreds of robots through a cloud system without installing expensive and heavy equipment such as graphic processing units (GPUs) or LiDARs, which serve as the “brain” of robots. Updates can also be performed in real-time, all at once, rather than individually for each robot. A Naver official said, “Unlike industrial robots, lightweight and inexpensive production is the key to commercializing service robots,” and “Cloud-based control technology is essential.”
Naver Labs has also internalized high-level location recognition technology, which corresponds to the “eyes” of robots. This enables precise location recognition even in GPS-shaded areas such as indoor and underground spaces, using visual localization technology.
Another core technology of Naver Labs is “Araike,” a solution that enables the efficient production of high-precision city-wide maps (HD maps) using aerial photographs, among other things. High-precision map data is essential for autonomous driving services to be activated within city centers. Currently, Naver is collaborating with SoftBank on a high-precision map production project in Japan. Naver is expanding its experience from “building” to “city” dimensions.
According to Naver, “Naver Labs’ high-precision map has the advantage of being able to create 3D models, road layouts, and HD maps all at once, making it universally applicable for city planning, maps for autonomous vehicles, and more.”