NAVER LABS’ location and mobility research results unveiled at DEVIEW 2017

At this year’s DEVIEW, a whole range of new ambient intelligence products and technologies were revealed in the NAVER LABS keynote. Ambient intelligence technology detects and understands humans and their contexts to naturally provide information or perform actions at the time of need. During his keynote, Changhyun Song, CEO of NAVER LABS and NAVER CTO, emphasized the motivation behind the ambient intelligence research he leads. “In this world where tools and information are overflowing, technology needs to understand humans and environments even better. The real value of technology will only be realized when it has become part of the fabric of everyday life”.

NAVER LABS shared advances made since last year on their ambient intelligence platform CLOVA (previously announced as ‘AMICA’), its neural machine translation technology PAPAGO, and web browser WHALE. The theme was clearly focused on ‘ambient intelligence touching daily life through advances in location and mobility research’.


1. Location intelligence

M1, Map cloud and AROUND to popularize autonomous driving robot services

The mapping robot M1, showcased a 3D point cloud of the COEX and Lotte World Mall indoor space in Seoul, the DEVIEW venue. M1, which was unveiled at last year’s event, has been improved with Epipolar’s mapping technology. The robot captures the data of a space and uses it to make high definition 3D indoor maps.

M1 has also evolved into the product ‘AROUND’ which NAVER LABS believes will popularize indoor autonomous service robots. The high price tag for such robots has prevented its penetration in the consumer market due to the functionalities required for autonomous driving such as map creation, position identification, route setting and obstacle avoidance. NAVER LABS have developed a solution that separates the map creation, carried out by M1, from the route creation and setting done by accessing the map on the map cloud. This makes the robot a whole lot cheaper because AROUND is able to carry out accurate autonomous driving and successfully avoid obstacles using only low-cost sensors and little processing power.

This solution significantly reduces production costs and opens up the possibility of mass manufacturing of robots and the ability to assist people in whole new ways. It can also be easily customized according to the characteristics and the spaces in which it operates as well as the kind of application it will perform. AROUND can be seen in action in the YES24 book store in the Busan shopping complex F1963, helping customers and employees browse and organize books.

AKI, the device of ambient intelligence specialized in location determination

NAVER LABS released AKI, an ambient intelligence device specialized in localization. It is targeted at parents with young children between 6 and 8 years old. AKI is designed to let parents know where their children are at any time and can alert them when their child is in an unusual place or performing unusual activities and movements.

To determine the location of the device wearer, AKI contains an integrated Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) which provides the exact indoor or outdoor position, an automatically controlled low power location detection which recognizes behavior, and personalized Wi-Fi fingerprinting technology. It detects the exact location of the child and how the child is moving with an activity detector and movement classifier. It learns the pattern of the child’s routine movements by analyzing the place, time and situation, so that it can alert parents when there is unaccustomed movement i.e. a place or activity that is not habitual in the child’s routine. AKI will be commercialized in the near future.


2. Mobility intelligence

The first four wheel balancing electronic skateboard

The robotics team is working on a number of exciting mobility projects. They presented the world’s first 4-wheel electronic balancing skateboard to complete the ‘personal last-mile’ of a journey.

The robotics team is working on a number of exciting mobility projects. They presented the world’s first 4-wheel electronic balancing skateboard to complete the ‘personal last-mile’ of a journey.

AIRCART physical human-robot interaction technology

The AIRCART began as a project to simply alleviate tedious chores. It uses physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) technology, a technology used in wearable human power amplifiers.

The AIRCART is easy to use even for a novice. Its movements, direction and speed are controlled via the ‘power sensor’ on the handle which communicates the user’s intentions. Equipped with an automatic breaking system, it’s safe going uphill and downhill, the latter often being the more dangerous. Together with AROUND, AIRCART is being used at the YES24 book store.

AWAY manufacturing tool kit and extension plans

The in-vehicle infotainment platform AWAY was announced with plans to provide an open toolkit. AWAY naturally connects and safely delivers vehicle, road and traffic information as well as audio and video entertainment. The open toolkit will make it easy for content and service providers as well as manufacturers to integrate, customize and personalize services. From next year, it will be supported as an open platform, and released as a standalone commercial product shortly afterwards.

Autonomous driving vehicles aim for SAE level 4 in cities this year

The autonomous driving car research is currently reinforcing its lane-based (self) position recognition technology to be able to work in GPS invisible areas in cities. In collaboration with KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), NAVER LABS has started research on rapid automatic information extraction from roads and signs in large urban areas. The DEVIEW video demonstrated the progress towards acquiring SAE level 4 in cities before the end of 2017.

3. Academic-Industrial collaboration to realize ambient intelligence in the mid/long term

Research on mobility in living environments includes the challenge of getting up and down stairs

During the keynote presentation devoted to robotics, several significant research breakthroughs were revealed in medium and long-term ambient intelligence solutions. To achieve the goal of NAVER LABS to make robots a part of everyday life, they need to be able to freely move around homes and other living spaces, understand people’s habits and provide extra hands and arms that can provide physical aid and other kinds of services. The research conducted to help achieve these goals is carried out in parallel at NAVER LABS and in partnership with universities. Examples of these partnerships include the Cheetah 3 robot with MIT and the Jumping Robot with UIUC which both demonstrate ongoing, long-term research on robot legs aimed at enabling robots to climb up and down stairs and over obstacles.
With the same objective, the NAVER LABS Tuskbot and TT-bot projects were shared. Tuskbot is a stair climbing robots with 4 wheels and TT-bot identifies objects and autonomously drives around them. These projects were born from internships.

AMBIDEX, the robot arm that touches everyday lives

AMBIDEX is a robot arm that interacts very naturally with humans. It is the fruit of a long-term research project with Korea Tech and, in particular, with professor Yong-Jae Kim, a world leader in the field and a facility equipped with the world's best robotic arm mechanism designing capabilities. Robot arms have a long history in robotic research where they have mainly been developed for manufacturing purposes focused on precision, repetition and heavy-load work. This kind of heavy, bulky robot arm is not well suited to a home setting and could even be considered dangerous. NAVER LABS work in the areas of hardware, control, recognition and intelligence aims at making the robot arm in the home a reality. AMBIDEX, one of the fruits of such research, was unveiled on stage at DEVIEW. AMBIDEX is safe for people to interact with and even lighter than a human arm.

AMBIDEX uses cable-driven mechanisms that place all the heavy actuators in the shoulder and body parts. This lightens the arms and means they can be driven with wires. Using innovative mechanisms that enhance the force and strength in each joint, AMBIDEX has achieved the same level of control, performance, and precision as industrial robots.

AMBIDEX aims to be a breakthrough robotic hardware solution that can work safely, flexibly and precisely with humans.

All of the research results shared during the keynote contribute to the NAVER LABS’ vision of ambient intelligence and we will continue to focus on technology, products and services that directly impact people. NAVER LABS envisions a future where people and society are not restricted by tools and technology. It is a world where people can focus on the things they value most in life and where ambient intelligence helps them do so.

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