A-CITY is the future vision for cities pursued by NAVER LABS technologies. We research the technologies for a city where every city space is connected by diverse autonomous machines, artificial intelligence analyzes vast amounts of data to make predictions, and spatial data is informatized and updated to automate even services such as delivery and logistics.
In order to achieve this, NAVER LABS is gathering a wide array of spatial data that comprise city spaces to make HD maps for the machines, and also developing an intelligent autonomous machine platform capable of transformation according to place, environment or purpose. We are also researching natural human-machine interaction (HMI) with the goal of providing useful services to people in everyday spaces.
These are the core technologies where NAVER LABS is currently focusing on to make advancements and accelerate the arrival of A-CITY, a future vision for cities.
M1 mapping robot, the beginning of indoor autonomous driving
M1 is a mapping robot that produces high-precision 3D maps of indoor spaces. HD maps, made by applying SLAM technology with the point cloud collected by LiDAR, are used as the core data for diverse position-based services including indoor autonomous service robots. We are currently expanding data usability even more while also increasing accuracy via M1X, an upgraded version of M1.
The core data for road-level autonomous driving: Hybrid HD mapping
Hybrid HD mapping, an original HD map production solution for autonomous driving machines, extracts the layout information of road surfaces from aerial images that capture large-scale urban areas. Using the method of organically combining data gathered by R1, our internally developed mobile mapping system (MMS), it is effective for the quick and accurate production of HD maps of extensive areas.
Technologies for automatically updating HD maps
For machine-readable maps, being up to date is of utmost importance. At NAVER LABS, we are conducting research for the ACROSS project for HD maps and the self-updating map technology for indoor maps. ACROSS is a technology that senses changes in the road layout (lane information, stop line location, road markers, etc.) and 3D information (traffic signs, buildings, signals, light poles, etc.) using devices equipped on numerous vehicles. The self-updating map is a technology that automatically recognizes changes in points of interest (POI) for large-scale shopping malls via AI and autonomous robots.
Mapping and localization for sidewalks with irregular surfaces and environments
Sidewalks, which can be seen as the middle ground between indoor and road areas, are highly influenced by changes in the seasons and weather. That is why we at NAVER LABS are conducting a project called COMET for the development of mapping and localization for sidewalks. We are producing devices with a sensor arrangement that suits the sidewalk environment, and are also developing algorithms to process the data acquired by this mapping equipment. Although people may equip and test it in the short term, the technology is planned for future testing to enable direct acquisition of data by a four-legged walking robot that will be able to move around on diverse street surfaces. Cheetah 3 and Mini Cheetah, developed by MIT with funding from NAVER LABS, will be utilized.
“R2D2: Reliable and Repeatable Detectors and Descriptors for Joint Sparse Keypoint Detection and Local Feature Extraction,” a visual localization research being conducted in NAVER LABS Europe that accurately ascertains specific locations in spite of environmental changes such as weather, seasons, time and lighting, also boasts highly innovative technology and won 1st place in the Local Feature Challenge of Long-Term Visual Localization at CVPR 2019.
Seamless road-level precision localization technology
NAVER LABS is researching technologies for autonomous driving machines to precisely estimate their own positions in real time even in the complex environments of cities. We applied our internally developed HD maps, like a virtual sensor, in order to perform seamless and stable localization even in areas such as dense buildings or tunnels where GPS is unreliable, and are advancing the technology to extract the most accurate coordinates by compiling the information acquired from the various sensors such as LiDAR, cameras, IMU and wheel encoders.
VL technology, recognizing location indoors using just one photo
Visual localization (VL) is a technology that analyzes an image to recognize the current location. It can ascertain the current position with high precision even indoors where GPS is not available. The VL technology by NAVER LABS retains the highest level of global competitiveness as a solution for recognizing location by extracting and comparing characteristic points from 3D data captured by the M1. This technology is currently applied for the indoor self-driving robot platform, and aside from VL, we are also concurrently developing AR technology that combines VIO (visual-inertial odometry) that tracks position by analyzing sensor and video data, VOT (visual object tracking) that recognizes objects and estimates the position or direction using 6DOF (six degrees of freedom), and other technologies. AR is also a very important technology for utilizing the space itself as an interface.
AMBIDEX, a robotic arm that is anatomically analogous to a human arm
Directly providing services to people in everyday spaces requires a robot arm that is both capable of high-precision motions while simultaneously ensuring safety. AMBIDEX, developed via industry-university collaboration between NAVER LABS and KOREATECH, is a robotic arm that can interact safely with people using an innovative wire-structure power transfer mechanism. We also added a waist section to expand the radius of activity. We are concurrently researching reinforcement learning via simulators and other processes to enable the performance of smarter and more precise service scenarios.
An on-road machine platform for autonomous driving machines on the road
After becoming the first IT business to receive the permit for provisional autonomous driving operation from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in 2017, NAVER LABS is advancing autonomous driving technology in all areas, from localization on actual roads to perception, planning and control. We are also producing HD maps for autonomous driving on roads using hybrid HD mapping and ACROSS solutions. Integrating these technologies and data, we are developing an autonomous driving machine platform that will allow customization for a variety of purposes such as logistics, delivery and unmanned shops.
Autonomous driving via the map cloud and reinforcement learning: the AROUND platform
The AROUND platform is the independent solution developed by NAVER LABS with the goal of popularizing self-driving service robots. It identifies the location and plans a route based on the map cloud made by the M1 mapping robot, and has the unique characteristic of enabling smooth autonomous driving, without the help of laser scanners, by applying deep reinforcement learning algorithm. High-accuracy indoor autonomous driving is achieved using only low-cost sensors and low processing power, as opposed to the many pre-existing self-driving robots in which the core functions such as map creation, position checking, route creation, obstacle avoidance, etc. must be performed directly.
New possibilities for robotic services: the 5G brainless robot platform
NAVER LABS succeeded in the first-ever 5G brainless robot demonstration at CES 2019. This technology involves moving the computer that serves the role of the robot's brain to the cloud and connecting with it via 5G. It effectively reduces production costs by enabling simultaneous control of numerous robots, and because the cloud serves the role of the robot's brain, robots can be made in small sizes with superior intelligence. We are expanding this technology through research in connection with the AROUND platform. Through all of this, the NAVER Data Center Gak strives to become the brain for numerous robots and to provide robotic services in various ways.