Naver invests in European AI

Naver invests in European AI

Naver is expediting its development of voice-recognition artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

Global IT giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are heavily investing in researching and developing AI systems that recognize human voices and understand natural languages. The nation’s largest internet service provider is also seeking partnerships with an advanced audio technology provider in Europe.

The company said Tuesday it has decided to invest in French high-end audio tech startup Devialet through venture investment company Korelya Capital. The investment firm was founded by Fleur Pellerin, an ethnic Korean who served as a French government minister. It is the primary manager of a venture capital fund dubbed K-Fund 1, which will invest 100 million euros in technological development in Europe. Naver and its Japan-based mobile service subsidiary LINE Corp. provided the 100 million euros in September.

“In the upcoming AI era, speakers will no longer be just audio equipment but become key devices that connect humans to AI systems,” Naver CTO Song Chang-hyun said. “Naver is preparing for the AI era and to this end we have established a strategic partnership with Devialet, which is boosting its presence as one of the most innovative enterprises in this sector.”

Established in 2007, Devialet has been dedicated to speaker technologies. It has developed sound amplification technologies such as “analog digital hybrid” and “speaker active matching,” which are used to upgrade sound quality even on small audio devices, rather than with large-sized amplifiers and speakers, according to Naver.

Naver unveiled its first voice-recognition AI system dubbed AMICA, which is designed as a part of autonomous driving technologies, last month. Expectations are that Devialet’s expertise in audio amplification and small speakers can be applied to AMICA.

Devialet has made investments with Taiwan’s electronics manufacturing company Foxconn and Renault Nissan Alliance, aiming to expand from home audio to TVs and cars. The company has attracted a total of 100 million euros in investment not only from venture capitals and global enterprises but also from individual investors such as Andy Rubin, one of the founders of the Android operating system, and musician Jay-Z.

Besides the investment, Naver said it is seeking ways to cooperate with Devialet. It also pledges to expand investment in more diverse promising startups in Europe through Korelya Capital.

“We believe Devialet is an enterprise like a gemstone that is creating innovation in the audio industry based on its own technologies,” Korelya Capital head Fleur Pellerin said.


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