LG seeks to build modules that help machines navigate autonomously. It today announced a service agreement with Robotis that will see the two develop a “self-driving module” for mobile robots.
As part of the arrangement, Yonhap News reports, the two companies will contribute software and hardware for robots equipped with “intelligent navigation technologies.” Separately, LG pledged to expand its robot product portfolio “[in] close cooperation” with manufacturer Robotis, which is perhaps best known for its modular, open source humanoid robotics kits.
LG has been involved in robotics for the better part of two decades, but in recent years has substantially diversified its investments. It acquired a 10.12 percent stake in Robotis in December 2017, and it recently contributed $5 million toward store inventory automation startup Bossa Nova Robotics and two South Korean robotics firms, SG Robotics and Robostar.
The Seoul company claims that collectively, it has funneled more than $90 million into autonomous machines over the past year.
There’s Hom-Bot, a robot vacuum cleaner that uses computer vision to navigate around furniture and other objects in its way, and the CLOi SuitBot, an exoskeleton designed to “support and enhance a user’s legs to allow for more mobility and lower limb strength.” And at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in January, LG took the wraps off of three concept robots under its CLOi brand: a server robot that delivers food and drinks, a porter robot that handles check-in and check-out at hotels (plus lobby-to-room luggage transport), and a grocer robot that informs customers of specials and guides them through store aisles.
One of the company’s largest-scale deployments is at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, where a fleet of LG custodial robots scans boarding passes, provides directions, and tidies up areas in need of frequent cleaning. The robots can converse with passengers in four languages — Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese — thanks to LG’s in-house voice recognition platform.
“Incheon is one of the busiest airports in the world,” Dr. I.P. Park, LG’s chief technology officer, told VentureBeat in an interview earlier this year. “Imagine a robot navigating that complex environment without interfering with or bumping into passengers. Thanks to our AI platform, it can move around on its own with full autonomy … Our goal is to utilize AI and innovative software technologies to help our customers have the best experience possible.”
More broadly, LG has devoted increasing resources to artificial intelligence (AI) research. In June 2017, it opened a lab in South Korea with the goal of bringing its research in computer vision, voice recognition, and natural language processing under one roof. And in August, it opened an AI R&D lab in Toronto, Canada — its second in North America — and named the University of Toronto the beneficiary of a “multi-million-dollar” AI investment fund.