The new office mate could be a ‘brainless’ robot – Times of India

SEONGNAM (SOUTH KOREA): The new workers zipped around the office completing mundane tasks like fetching coffee, delivering meals and handing off packages. They did not get in anyone’s way. They waited unobtrusively for elevators with unfailing politeness. And, perhaps most enticingly, they did not complain. That’s because they were robots.
Robots have found a home in other workplaces, such as factories and in retail and hospitality, but they are largely absent from the white-collar world of cubicles and conference rooms. Naver – a soup-to-nuts internet conglomerate in South Korea – has been experimenting with integrating robots into office life for several months. Inside a futuristic, starkly industrial, 36-story high-rise on the outskirts of Seoul, a fleet of about 100 robots cruise around on their own, moving from floor to floor on robot-only elevators and sometimes next to humans, rolling through security gates and entering meeting rooms. Naver’s network of web services, including a search engine, maps, email and news aggregation, is dominant in South Korea, but its reach abroad is limited, lacking the global renown of a company like Google.
There are thorny privacy questions: A machine teeming with cameras and sensors roaming company hallways could be a dystopian tool of corporate surveillance if abused, experts say. But Naver has done extensive research to make sure its robots look, move and behave in a way that makes employees comfortable. And as it develops its own robot privacy rules, it hopes to write the blueprint for the office robots of the future. “Our effort now is to minimize the discomfort they cause to humans,” said Kang Sang-chul, an executive at Naver Labs.
Naver said one distinctive feature of its robots was that they are intentionally “brainless,” meaning they are not rolling computers that process information inside the machine. Instead, the robots communicate in real time over a high-speed, private 5G network with a centralized “cloud” computing system.
Tech firms often encourage employees to test out their own products, but with its robots, Naver has turned its entire office into a research and development lab. Every door is programmed to open when a robot approaches. There are no tight hallways or obstructions on the floor. The ceilings are marked with numbers and QR codes to help the robots orient themselves.
Naver isn’t the only tech firm trying to advance robot technology. Rice Robotics has deployed hundreds of cartoonish, boxy robots that deliver packages, groceries and more in office buildings, shopping malls and convenience stores around Asia. Robots like Optimus, a prototype Tesla unveiled in September, are designed to be more like humans, and carry boxes, water plants and more, but they are a long way from being deployed.

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