Naver Revolutionizes Office Work With Advanced Robot Technology

Naver integrates robots into office life, exploring new ways of working with its fleet of Rookies in Seoul.

How are robots changing office work environments?

In the state-of-the-art headquarters of Naver, South Korea's largest internet company located in Seoul, a fleet of approximately 100 robotic assistants, known as Rookies, are revolutionizing office routines. These robots perform tasks like delivering meals and parcels, navigating the 36-storey building autonomously. Powered by Naver’s advanced cloud system, these robots demonstrate one of the first large-scale integrations of robotics in a corporate environment. Seok Sang-ok, CEO of Naver Labs, emphasized the uniqueness of their robot service, underscoring the collaboration among Naver's various services, including search engines, online shopping, and social networking, to develop these technologies.

100 'Rookies' in Naver's headquarter (Photo: Naver)

Technological Foundations And Global Ambitions

Naver's commitment to research and development, particularly in artificial intelligence, robotics, and autonomous driving, is evident in its investment of about a quarter of its annual sales in R&D. The use of "digital twin" technology, a 3D mapping of cities and buildings, aids the robots in navigation and task execution. These robots, operating with basic video cameras and without high-end processors or navigation tools, offer a cost-effective solution. Naver's vision extends beyond South Korea, with plans to export its 5G-based cloud robotics technology to Europe, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Seok anticipates a significant improvement in their robotics technology using the cloud in the next two to three years.

Export Challenges And Domestic Robot Industry

While Naver’s robotics initiative has been successful domestically, Park Sang-soo, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, highlights the challenges in exporting such complex technology. He points out that the success of Naver’s robots is partly due to the building’s design and advises considering non-technical factors like IT infrastructure and regulations of target countries. South Korea, with the world’s highest robot density and a robust domestic robot industry, views AI and robots as solutions to labor shortages. The country’s service robot sales are projected to nearly double by 2026, reflecting the increasing role of robots in daily life.

Last month, Naver opened Asia's largest data center in Sejong City, furthering its AI and cloud ventures. This facility, equipped with 600,000 servers, utilizes various robots for server management and features self-driving shuttles. Albert Wang, principal researcher at Naver Labs, notes the company's comprehensive approach, focusing on system-level solutions with multiple robot systems working in tandem. Despite South Korea's traditional focus on hardware exports, Naver seeks to pivot to IT services exports, including digital twins, robotics, and AI tools. This shift aligns with South Korea's broader goal of diversifying its high-tech exports, moving from hardware to software and IT services, as evidenced by recent contracts for digital twin projects in the Middle East and AI model offerings to foreign governments.

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