A-CITY, a connection made by self-moving spaces

Cities, especially their features, changed greatly following the advent of the modern elevator in the 19th century. Going beyond the limits of flat land, high-rise architecture gave people a wholly new everyday space. The interesting history of innovations in locomotion has contributed to the transformation of our lives. NAVER LABS, having conducted research on technologies including autonomous driving, robotics and AI, is now concentrating on new concepts that will change the cities of our future.

This is none other than the concept of self-moving spaces or auto-movables. In the near future, auto-movables will provide information, services, products and more, creating new connections.

Imagine a city where each urban space is closely connected by a variety of autonomous machines and where artificial intelligence makes predictions by analyzing vast amounts of data, while processes of data informatization for spaces and even services such as delivery and logistics are all automated. We have given this future city the name A-CITY. This is the future that the technologies of NAVER LABS are now aspiring to achieve.

Autonomous Everywhere–HD maps for machines

The first phase to speed up the future coming of A-CITY is the task of making HD maps for machines. Such maps are the most basic data to allow the autonomous machines to move freely.

Various spaces within a city have differing conditions for implementing autonomous driving technology. That is why a wide array of technologies must be applied to make HD maps for every space.

Mapping robots called M1 will be tasked with covering large-scale indoor spaces like shopping malls. In order to quickly and precisely make massive HD maps of the roads on a metropolitan scale, we developed an original solution called “Hybrid HD mapping.” We are also concurrently developing a mapping technology for sidewalks where road surfaces are uneven and non-uniform.

Updates are also important as cities continuously change their form. That is why we have developed a self-updating map technology through robotics and AI to ascertain changes in indoor spaces, and are currently conducting the ACROSS project for updating road-level data.

The technology to mark every city space into HD maps with seamless connections—this is the foundation of A-CITY.

Autonomous Everything–Intelligent autonomous machine platform

Offering services where autonomous machines are useful requires a great deal of technology working in unison. For example, at NAVER LABS we are researching four-legged robots’ locomotion on uneven and non-uniform roads, artificial intelligence for smart robot services, robot arms to provide services directly to people, and even AR technology that uses the space itself as the interface.

Even among these, the technology for high-precision localization to recognize current positioning is crucial. Although it may look easy to ascertain current positions, there are numerous environmental restrictions in the case of machines. For example, surely the very first thing that comes to mind when we say positioning is GPS. However, GPS does not work indoors. Even outdoors, we can experience intermittent interference in the concrete jungle of buildings in a populated area. We are researching a wide array of localization technologies here at NAVER LABS to overcome these types of issues. We are converging high-precision road-level localization linked to HD mapping, such as the technology to find location based on just one photo, to accurately recognize the location and enable effective route planning from wherever you are.

At NAVER LABS we are also concentrating on 5G and cloud computing as an important solution for the popularization of robot services. The technology to move the robot’s computer, which serve cerebral functions, to the cloud and connect using “5G brainless robot” technology enables effective cost reductions by controlling numerous robots simultaneously. Since the cloud takes the role of the robot’s brain, it becomes possible to make smaller robots with outstanding intelligence. This is why we see this technology as the primer for the popularization of self-driving robots.

Outside, however, the road-level autonomous driving technology works in a bit more special environment. There are set traffic rules to be abided and various signals to be read. Following the first acquisition by an IT company of the permit for provisional autonomous driving operation from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in 2017, NAVER LABS has been collectively advancing every area of autonomous driving technologies for roads including HD mapping, high-precision localization, recognition, planning, and control, all on actual roadways.

We are forming an intelligent autonomous machine platform that combines all of the high-precision localization, 5G and cloud computing, and other various types of autonomous driving and robotic technologies. This platform will eliminate people’s concerns of technologies needed for the achievement of autonomous driving in all urban spaces. Instead, it will allow us to focus entirely on finding and designing new and valuable experiences to include in auto-movable spaces.

Autonomous Everyday–New connections permeating our everyday lives

Our essential goal is not to keep future technologies in the lab, but to infuse them into the spaces of people’s everyday lives. Interactions with users must feel extremely natural, with hardware that is dependable to allow error-free daily operations, and software with adequate testing to ensure that no erratic operations occur. Not only that, but the core algorithms that serve the machines’ intelligence role must be fully optimized, and spatial data must also be kept up to date. Although these are certainly not easy tasks, it is nonetheless the future that is sure to come.

However, the technologies that we are researching are not only for certain special services. Just as the emergence of the elevator gave birth to unprecedented new living spaces in the form of high-rise buildings and as mobile technology brings variations with all new service experiences, the technology connecting auto-movable spaces will be expanded to include even more possibilities than we can currently imagine.

A-CITY, to be filled with completely new connections—this blueprint, though still unfamiliar to us, will someday become a normal part of our daily lives. We are fully devoted to researching the core technologies that will make that day come sooner.

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