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Korean IT giant Naver showcases location-tracking tech at annual Deview meet

Oct 15. 2018
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FROM indoor navigation using augmented reality to ultra-high definition mapping technology for autonomous driving, South Korean internet giant Naver is developing a range of location-tracking technologies it believes will form the backbone of new offline services in the future.

Some of these technologies were unveiled last week at Naver’s annual developer’s conference Deview 2018 held in Seoul, organised to showcase the Korean portal site operator’s future tech development direction each year. 

Stressing “location” as the most important cue for context in a physical space, Naver Chief Technology Officer Song Chang-hyun said Naver’s in-house research lab is developing and testing out an array of location and mobility-based technologies that will serve as the backbone of new, real-world services.

“If technology can fix mobility problems in the physical space, it will inevitably lead to the development of new services. And the underlying platform technology for any location and mobility problem is mapping,” Song said in a keynote speech during the conference. 

In line with this vision, Naver plans to open source the Naver Maps Enterprise application programming interface to developers next month. The soon-to-be-free mapping API includes including point of interest data and navigation data, which most smaller ICT firms find difficult to build and maintain. 

The Korean internet giant also introduced for the first time the extended Definition & Dimension Map, or xDM, platform which includes high-dimension mapping, localization and navigation technologies to guide people and self-driving vehicles in not just outdoor, but also indoor settings.

For instance, Naver utilised its xDM platform to build an AR navigation system that guides people through indoor spaces without GPS access, using just a smartphone camera. On a smartphone, walking direction signs and messages would be overlaid on top of real-life pathways as captured by the camera.

This service is slated to debut soon, via a partnership with Incheon Airport. This week, Naver signed a memorandum of understanding with the airport’s operator to launch an indoor AR navigation app that would guide airport passengers to their respective destinations inside the airport.

“We plan to open source our xDM platform in the form of API and SDK so that they can be used for various location-based service development and mobility research in the future. We plan to continue improving xDM so it can grow into Korea’s top location and mobility platform,” Song said.

In addition, Naver Labs is developing technologies for self-driving cars, including a high-definition map that combines high-definition aerial maps and mobile mapping devices to build intricate, real-time maps even in crowded urban centers where GPS access is partly blocked out.

The company also showcased the latest updates in its robotics technology development, which had taken center stage at last year’s Deview conference. 

M1, an autonomous indoor mapping robot that creates intricate 3D maps while moving by laser-scanning its surroundings with a 360-degree camera, and Around, a self-driving robot that navigates itself by accessing M1’s mapping data via the cloud, are undergoing commercialisation procedures via a partnership with Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings. 

Aircart, an electric book cart equipped with a module that amplifies human power to make pushing the cart significantly easier, is preparing for commercial deployment at local libraries in partnership with Samsong Caster. 

Naver’s robotics lab is also continuing research and development efforts with Seoul-based Korea Tech Co to develop robotic cable-driven arms with humanlike sensitivities called Ambidex. 

Weighing just 2.6 kilograms, the robot’s core motors are placed near the torque and transfers power down to the lower arms and fingers via flexible, lightweight cable wires. 

Looking ahead, Naver plans to showcase its fleet of robots at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January next year, marking its first-ever attendance at the global electronics convention.


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