The new staff flew around the office, performing regular tasks like obtaining coffee, delivering meals, and passing off stuff. They didn’t get in the way of anyone or breach anyone’s personal space. They waited for elevators unobtrusively and politely. And, perhaps most importantly, they did not complain.
For some months, Naver, a South Korean internet company, has been experimenting with incorporating robots into office life. A fleet of roughly 100 robots drives around on its own within a futuristic, starkly industrial 36-story high-rise on the outskirts of Seoul, travelling from floor to level on robot-only elevators and occasionally close to humans, rolling past security gates and accessing meeting rooms.
Naver’s web services network, which includes a search engine, maps, email, and news aggregation, is powerful in South Korea, but it lacks the global reputation of a corporation like Google. The organisation has been looking for fresh expansion opportunities. It agreed to pay $1.2 billion for Poshmark, an online secondhand store, in October. Now, Naver sees the software that runs robots in corporate offices as a product that other companies might want in the future.
Robots have found a place in various workplaces, like factories, retail, and hospitality, but they are mainly missing from the cubicle and conference room world. There are some difficult privacy issues: Experts warn that a machine brimming with cameras and sensors roving business hallways may become a nightmarish weapon of corporate monitoring if exploited. It is also challenging to design an environment in which machines may move freely without disrupting employees.
According to Naver, the robots are purposely “brainless,” which means they are not rolling computers.
However, Naver has performed extensive research to guarantee that its robots, which imitate a rolling garbage can, look, move, and respond in a way that employees find comfortable. Furthermore, it hopes to lay the framework for future office robots while developing its own robot privacy standards.
Employees at technology companies are frequently encouraged to test their own products, but with its robots, Naver has transformed its entire office into a development and research lab, employing its workers as test subjects for future workplace solutions.
When Naver workers drive to the office, which was completed this year, the corporation automatically sends them parking reminders via the workplace app. Employees pass through face recognition security gates while masked to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Artificial intelligence software recommends areas of attention for employees’ annual health exams at Naver’s in-house health clinic.
Naver began construction on the office in 2016 after designing it from the bottom up with robots in mind. When a robot arrives, every door is designed to open. There are no small corridors or other obstructions on the floor. To assist the robots in orienting themselves, the ceilings are tagged with numbers and QR codes. Robot delivery lanes are available at the cafeteria.