NAVER, South Korea’s leading search engine, is turning its new 1784 building into a giant place where “humans work in harmony with robots.” The plan is to have 100 robots autonomously roaming around the building to provide various services to humans. 1784 is a reference to the year the industrial revolution started.
The ROOKIE robot will be the primary platform for this experiment. Robots will even have their robots-only elevator to go floor to floor quickly. Robots will be “brainless,” meaning that they will be controlled by ARC, a centralized artificial intelligence via a dedicated 5G network. NAVER Cloud powers ARC.
ARC stands for Ai Robot Cloud and encompasses the AI software, the low-latency network, and the cloud computational resources. For instance, the AI includes ARC eye and ARC brain, two critical neural networks that enable the operating of the robots. The robots use ARC eye to recognize where they are and find the best way to their destination. No GPS is needed.
This architecture is contrarian to the “edge AI” utilized by others. With Edge AI, the robot hosts the computing platform and may not need constant network access. On the other hand, NAVER’s centralization might make software updates and incremental improvements easier, which is critical in the testing phase. Additionally, it can take advantage of the denser computational power of a data center, and make the robots more efficient, both in cost and battery life.
NAVER even built a “digital twin” to get the AI development going. Digital Twins are essentially virtual 3D worlds that mimic the physical facility in which robots will operate. Within these worlds, robots can be taught and tested safely and quickly. Many scenarios can be devised, and it’s even possible to run the simulations much faster at many times the speed of the real world. “Digital twins” is leading-edge technology.
Robots aside, the CLOVA FaceSign device also identifies people walking in the facility, even if they are wearing masks. NAVER even envisions having AI-based physical exams and contactless smart assessments based on camera footage. From a privacy perspective, it would be very interesting to see how people react to that.
The 1784 building has been designed with the latest technology and trends, including the recent pandemic experience. For example, each floor has its HVAC system, so pathogens don’t spread to other floors. For convenience, it also has a fully-featured clinic.
The double-skin façade and radiant cooling (cooling the ceiling) should make it energy-efficient, especially in the scorching hot Korean summer.
This project seems like a grand experiment, and I’m looking forward to testing it in the real world. I wonder what services these robots will provide and how they will make life easier for people in 1784. That might be a sneak peek of where things are going.
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