Former Skype founders unveil Wagon-like robot to deliver groceries


Two former Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis have joined together to launch a robot company called Starship Technologies with the aim to solve the ‘last mile problem’ of delivering parcels from Transportation hubs to customers’ houses. They are focusing at the grocery sector with these robots to drop groceries at the door step in a matter of 30 minutes.

Robot delivery

The little wagon-like robot weighing 40 pounds could make local deliveries and have been proved to be useful to neighborhood restaurants and retailers. The robots have been designed to be 99% self-driving with integrated navigation and avoidance software. In some circumstances, it can be handled by remote human operator, a similar technology designed by Google for aiding its self-driving cars. It can map out areas and navigate safely back on their own.

CEO of Starship Technologies Heinla said, ” The robots will cross the streets very much like the humans do: stop, look both ways, and wait until it is safe to cross.  The robot can recognize approaching cars with its sensor suite from 100-200 meters and will cross the streets only in locations with great visibility.”

With the robot, a customer can actually track its progress with an app. The customer would be alerted if the delivery has arrived. With the help of the app, the locked cargo bay can be opened. The robots have the capacity to carry as heavy as two grocery bags, said the company.

The wagon-like robots have inbuilt speakers that would allow the operator to talk to pedestrians if needed. Heinla added, ” “If somebody bothers the robot the operator can actually shout – ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ ” Heinla added, “If somebody tries to steal something the operator can actually yell ‘The police are coming in five minutes! We know your location, you’re being filmed as well.'”

Starship Technologies intends to sell the robots as a service so businesses can either pay the startup for every day delivery or they can buy the platform and pay for operators and maintenance

Though the robots seem to be an interesting innovation, some communities have regulations that may pose to be a hurdle. However, Starship argues that the robots are much safer than drones used for package delivering, as put forth by companies like Amazon and Google. The startup also suggests they are cheaper and capable of carrying larger bags.