Since January, Naver has shelled out 110 billion won for 13 AI-related investments.
D2 StartupFactory (D2SF), the technology-based start-up investment project of Naver, made investment in three AI startups -- Furiosa AI, Deepixel and CrowdWorks on August 21.
These start-ups are known to have hardware optimized for AI, recognition and tracking of objects in images and data technology for AI’s learning, respectively. "These startups will generate synergies in upgrading our AI technology," Naver said.
Investment in “ORFEOSoundWorks” which has developed “Soundhound” with advanced voice recognition technology, noise cancellation and voice recognition Bluetooth headset, is also interpreted as part of Naver’s securing AI technology.
Experts believe that in the era of the fourth industrial revolution, the form of connecting devices and people is likely to be replaced by a voice interface rather than a visual interface. As a result, global information technology companies including Naver are concentrating their efforts on developing and upgrading AI speakers to make them accurately understand and answer human voices and follow commands from people.
The acquisition of the Xerox Research Center Europe (XRCE), a high-tech research center in France, supplied more power to Naver in its competition to secure AI technology. Naver said that the acquisition of the center earned Naver 80 excellent specialists in AI research and development and technologies necessary to realize "living environment intelligence" such as autonomous driving cars and 3-dimensional indoor map production robots.
Naver is planning to scale up contact points between users and AI by applying AI technology to its overall portal services in the second half of this year. The Korean search giant will provide various services based on AI technology such as translation, letter recognition, barcode recognition, and the automatic classification of image-based contents by installing smart lens and a voice recognition function in its mobile search window.
In the meantime, the Fair Trade Commission included Naver in business groups subject to public disclosures (quasi-large corporate groups) and designated founder Lee Hae-jin as controlling owner of Naver although it is an unsatisfactory decision for Naver that wanted to be designated as a large corporation without a controlling owner.
Lee, the founder of Naver, who is seeking investment opportunities in Europe among others, is expected to focus on his job as global investment officer (GIO). It is said that Lee secured his base in Europe as he already opened Space Green, a startup space for start-ups in Paris of France, and completed the acquisition of the Xerox Research Center Europe (currently Naver Labs Europe) which is famous for its AI Technology Research Center.