Starship Technologies sounds like something directly out of a science-fiction film, but in fact it’s a company launched in 2014 by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, that aims to revolutionize and simplify local delivery with their high-tech courier robot. With drones, driverless cars, and unmanned vehicles being all the rage in the tech world, Starship Technologies seeks to bring something different to the table: ground-bound autonomous bots that can bring you what you need, when you need it.
Bots Navigating the Cityscape
Each robot has a carrying capacity of approximately 40 pounds or two fully stocked grocery bags. The bot’s primary utilization in the city is for delivering foodstuffs but also will have the added functionality of picking up parcels, laundry, and other essentials that will greatly reduce the need for trips around the city. It can travel within a three-mile radius and intelligently navigate obstacles as well as heed for pedestrians, cars, and bicycles. It traverses the metropolis using nine cameras paired with GPS to create a 360-degree, three-dimensional map of the surrounding environment.
Customers use a mobile app to place their orders from participating stores and businesses around the city. The bot then deploys from a localized storage hub, heads to the designated location to pick up the order, and then 5 to 30 minutes later it appears outside with a mobile notification that your bot has arrived. Simple, easy, and virtually hassle free. The last step is to meet your bot, enter your secret code to open the lid, and take your prize! Then the bot is immediately off to its next endeavor.
When all is said and done it seems like a very straightforward and easy system, but there are some notable concerns regarding the negative side of human-robot interaction. The most obvious issue being the possibility of vandalism and theft of the device, or even people just hindering it while it goes about its business. Starship Technologies anticipates that people might interfere with their bots, and have included some deterrents and safety features. Each robot will be equipped with an alarm system, camera, and a speaker that allows operators to warn potential nuisances that they are on camera as well as that the police are on the way.
Bots, Bots Everywhere
The bots have already achieved vast success in the European market. Per Technical.ly, they have encountered over 2.8 million people and covered 14,500 miles, with no reported interference from passersby. Also, the bots have completed hundreds of trips every day in England, Germany, and Switzerland.
With an impending American launch in Washington D.C. and a recent $17.2 million round of funding, the future of these little courier bots looks bright and we should be prepared to see them whizzing around cities across the United States in the near future.