S.Korean Naver’s robotics ambitions challenged by 5G on-the-ground realities

A robotic utilizing 5G community strikes throughout an indication on the Naver 1784 firm workplace in Seongnam, South Korea, Might 13, 2022. Image taken Might 13, 2022. REUTERS/ Heo Ran

SEONGNAM, South Korea: On weekdays, South Korean tech firm Naver Corp’s new headquarters close to Seoul resembles a scene straight out of a science-fiction film, with some 40 robots ambling throughout flooring and delivering parcels and Starbucks espresso to people.

The Rookies, because the robots are known as, weave their approach between folks and even take a see-through elevator reserved for them to traverse the constructing’s 28 flooring. Crucially for Naver, the Rookies’ brains are saved within the cloud and related to the robots through a non-public superfast 5G community.

Whereas the robots appear to be doing their jobs properly, senior Naver executives are cautious on the business way forward for the fledgling robotic enterprise, on which the corporate has already invested $550 million, as 5G expertise presents challenges.

“This will probably be a long-term job,” Seok Sang-ok, CEO of R&D arm Naver Labs, which leads the robots undertaking, advised Reuters, declining to make any monetary forecasts for the enterprise.

Naver is South Korea’s dominant search portal operator and one in every of its 10 most respected listed corporations with a market capitalisation of $35 billion. It has been making a push into 5G, turning into the nation’s first non-telecoms firm to be allowed to run a domestically licensed 5G community in December.

Naver’s cautious outlook for the robots enterprise underscores the challenges corporations face in turning modern concepts that 5G has promised into business successes.

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These embody regulatory hurdles involving new companies like autonomous driving, patchy community rollouts and incremental upgrades in applied sciences.

And even in a technologically superior nation corresponding to South Korea, Asia’s 5G pioneer which launched a fifth-generation cellular community in 2019, demand for the service has remained muted and telcos have been reluctant to speculate the huge sums wanted to ramp up connection speeds to help companies like autonomous driving.

Value Benefit?

Whereas Naver’s robots at present carry out fundamental capabilities and their reliability is being examined in comparatively managed settings, Naver executives are banking on its affordability as a USP for wider use.

Naver declined to reveal the robots’ value, however mentioned the elimination of the central processing unit and graphics processing unit from the robotic and retaining its “mind” within the cloud can cut back a unit’s price by greater than $1,500.

“5G’s low latency is the important thing to ditching computer systems inside robots so it may well entry giant computing energy limitless by robotic measurement,” mentioned Seok.

Naver plans to extend the variety of robots to 100 this yr and in addition allow them perform set-up and upkeep work at its large information centre that will probably be accomplished in 2023. The centre will span 300,000 sq. metres and be capable to function at the least 100,000 servers, matching the size of Microsoft or Apple’s largest information centres, based on the corporate.

“5G is a community with many benefits, however it needs to be optimised for robots as a substitute of telephones. Nobody can do it, however we’re doing it,” mentioned Naver Labs’ Received Choong-lyol within the interview. 

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