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Korean web large Naver explores robotics, AI and autonomous driving

In July final 12 months, Naver, maker of the search engine often called the “Google of South Korea,” opened its new second headquarters, Naver 1784. The constructing’s title refers to a 12 months generally related to the Industrial Revolution. Inside you’ll discover a testomony to automation’s rising international affect, within the type of 100 autonomous robots. 

The robots, referred to as Rookies, weave out and in between individuals and ship parcels, espresso and lunch to Naver’s workers, all utilizing 5G. They even have their very own robots-only elevator, Roboport. Naver Labs, the corporate’s R&D division, launched utilizing the brand new headquarters as a check mattress for the Rookies. This November, it’s going to organize the robots in its new knowledge middle, Gak Sejong, in South Korea.

Picture Credit: Naver

I visited the location final 12 months, to see the robots firsthand. Rookies navigate by each inch of the headquarters, whereas robotic arms drew photos. Naver already owns a raft of subsidiaries, providing companies like e-commerce, messaging, funds, digital comics, cloud and metaverse. And, simply final week, the corporate launched its generative AI companies constructed on its giant language mannequin HyperClova X, becoming a member of the generative AI area race. 

Does the web large wish to broaden robotics, synthetic intelligence, and autonomous driving know-how past its current companies to drive its future progress? When requested about its ongoing tasks, Naver says it has been engaged on a handful of tasks on robots, autonomous driving know-how and AI, through its R&D division since 2013. Six years in the past, it acquired Xerox Analysis Centre Europe (XRCE) in Grenoble, France, which makes a speciality of researching AI, machine studying, pc imaginative and prescient and pure language processing, to bolster its analysis and improvement. Publish-acquisition, XRCE grew to become Naver Labs.

The corporate believes individuals dwelling in such revolutionary environments will profit from the Naver Labs tasks — together with robots — within the not-too-distant future. The web search engine desires to participate within the new type of platform, robots, which it believes may exchange cellphones someday. 

Naver Labs‘ analysis is aimed toward 5 areas: robotics (Round, Round G and Ambidex), AI (ARC System), digital twins (Alike and Hybrid HD mapping), pc imaginative and prescient/augmented actuality (Indoor AR Navigation and Forward) and autonomous driving know-how.  

At Naver’s AI convention final week, TechCrunch sat down with the director of Science at Naver Labs Europe (NLE), Martin Humenberger, to study Naver Labs’ mission and ongoing tasks. 

“Our long-term imaginative and prescient is creating helpful robots in on a regular basis lives,” Humenberger tells TechCrunch. “This contains robotic assistants at residence, hospitals, museums, procuring malls, airports, and so forth. Extra short-term, we concentrate on last-mile supply functions in sensible cities and buildings.” 

Most of its long-term tasks haven’t been commercialized but. Nonetheless, its ongoing analysis and newest know-how are constantly utilized to enhance the efficiency of Naver’s robots, Rookies, on the 1784 constructing and the info middle, Gak. As well as, it offers a robotic as a service (RaaS) to the Naver Cloud platform, Humenberger provides.

One instance of RaaS is the ARC system powered by the Naver Cloud Platform. ARC, an intelligence system for robots, permits Naver’s Rookies to see, acknowledge and function. ARC isn’t only a management system for robots. It’s the robots’ eye and mind, which implies Rookies don’t require GPS entry; as an alternative, the ARC eye helps them acknowledge their environment, whereas offering essentially the most environment friendly route. That’s in keeping with Imaginative and prescient Group chief at Naver Labs Korea, Donghwan Lee, who leads the ARC eye challenge. ARC Mind, in the meantime, connects service infrastructure in actual time and updates knowledge and algorithms within the cloud for robots. Rookies on the 1784 constructing don’t want a built-in working system due to their cloud connectivity that powers the ARC system, which controls the robots, Lee added. Naver says the ARC system can scale back the robotic’s manufacturing value and battery consumption by shifting duties robots should deal with to the cloud. 

Picture Credit: Naver

Each Naver Labs in South Korea and France have some clear mutual targets, however others run in parallel, says Humenberger. The collaboration relies on data and progress sharing till they outline joint targets.

Whereas Naver Labs Europe (NLE) focuses its analysis on “the basics of AI and the right way to overcome present and future challenges in AI,” Naver Labs Korea (NLK) researches and develops robotics, programs engineering and platform engineering and operations, he provides.

The first analysis space of NLE is the AI know-how for robotics. NLE is growing “pc imaginative and prescient strategies for next-generation robotic notion,” which helps robots perceive the surroundings higher, and “new strategies for sequential resolution making and combinational optimization, which permits the robots to navigate in unknown environments or to carry out advanced manipulation duties,” Humenberger explains. NLE can also be constructing a know-how that permits environment friendly interplay between robots and people through language.

Picture Credit: Naver Labs/ Martin Humenberger, director of Science at Naver Labs Europe

To make Naver’s robots versatile assistants, NLE advances AI-powered pc imaginative and prescient, machine studying for robotics and pure language processes. 

“It’s true that we rely rather a lot on AI-powered pc imaginative and prescient to higher perceive the world (semantics and geometry), reinforcement studying to show robots to execute duties, and pure language processing and knowledge retrieval to make information (textual content, pictures, movies, and so forth.) accessible to our robots,” Humenberger tells TechCrunch.

He offers an instance of a concrete analysis exercise associated to basis fashions for the true world, CroCo. CroCo is a basis mannequin for 3D in a single picture. “It’s designed to grasp the world in 3D utilizing pictures,” Humenberger mentioned, including that it’s not for generative AI or giant language fashions however for robotics and digital twins. “At Naver Labs, we use CroCo as a complicated robotic notion module for duties comparable to localization, navigation, and interplay between human and robotic.”

“Now we have an enormous check mattress the place we are able to develop and function robots in the true world, extremely expert engineers and researchers, and highly effective cloud infrastructure,” Humenberger explains. “It’s fairly troublesome to safe even certainly one of these situations, and it’s secure to say Naver is the only real firm that’s geared up with all of them.”

NLE has greater than 100 researchers and scientists within the fields of AI, starting from core machine studying to UX, in keeping with Humenberger. Naver Labs didn’t disclose the variety of employees in Korea attributable to confidentiality points.

South Korean tech behemoths, comparable to Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Doosan, are working within the pipeline of robotics improvement, from industrial robots to cooking, serving, and supply robots, and ploughing capital into the robotics area. Earlier this 12 months, Samsung mentioned it plans to roll out an EX1 robotic to help elders in exercising, and its analysis division is growing a Samsung robotic platform. Doosan Robotics, a robotics unit of the Korean manufacturing agency Doosan, has filed for an preliminary public providing, in keeping with its submitting. 


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