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Meet Your New Corporate Office Mate: A 'Brainless' Robot

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A robot making a delivery at the offices of internet company Naver on the outskirts of Seoul.

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.

Credit: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

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 or violate personal space. They waited unobtrusively for elevators with unfailing politeness. And, perhaps most enticingly, they did not complain.

That's because they were robots.

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. The company has been on the hunt for new avenues for growth. In October, it agreed to acquire Poshmark, an online secondhand retailer, for $1.2 billion. Now, Naver sees the software that powers robots in corporate office spaces as a product that other companies may eventually want.

From The New York Times
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