Entrepreneur Ahti Heinla had been working with robots and also building them in his spare time when he responded to a request from NASA to help develop an autonomous rough-terrain robot to find and retrieve rock samples on Mars. The proposal that he submitted to NASA was not successful but he and colleague Janus Friis then came up with the idea of using robots to make deliveries in suburban areas.
Today, their company, Starship Technologies, has offices around the world and its delivery robots have travelled over 200,000 miles delivering over 50,000 orders in many neighbourhoods and on university campuses. At George Mason University, its fleet of 25 robots makes it the largest robot food delivery service on a university campus.
Cost Saving Deliveries
The idea for the robot delivery service developed from the insight that 95% of the things that people order online are small enough to be delivered by a small robot at lower cost than that which delivery companies typically incur in the last few miles of a journey.
Delivery robots use similar technology to that found in autonomous cars, such as cameras, ultrasonics and GPS guidance. But they are not totally autonomous. The robots are able to put in a call to a human operator for assistance if a problem arises. The human operator may be overseeing over 100 robots at any time. The operator may not even be in the same country but can watch every delivery.
So how have pedestrians reacted to small robots trundling along sidewalks in amongst the human walkers?
When Starship rolled out their first robots to test them in action, at first people would stop and take photos but after seeing a few of them, most would lose interest and accepted them as part of the urban environment. Pedestrians do not seem to find them intrusive or a hindrance to them going about their normal business.
It appears that sidewalk robots, far from being robot toys, could be here to stay.
And what about self-driving vehicles for deliveries?
The man credited with inventing the robot vacuum is James Dizon, who sold the rights to Electrolux. In 1996, Electrolux introduced the first robotic vacuum cleaner to the market. However, it failed to capture the market.
It wasn’t until 2002 that iRobot launched Roomba. Roomba was capable of changing directions and could detect dirty spots on the floor. It could also negotiate stairways.
In 2001, Dyson demonstrated the DC06 but it was too expensive for the market. Then in 2004, three years later, iRobot achieved one million units in sales.
Ten years later, in 2014, Dyson introduced the Dyson 360 Eye with a 360 degree camera and double suction.
2015 saw the introduction of “Sooba’, a robot machine that was capable of scrubbing floors.. then in 2016, iRobot released the “Dirt Dog” that was able to clean up doggie debris.
Following on from the Dirt Dog, the iRobot Braava 380T was introduced and was capable of sweeping and mopping at the same time. This unit had extended battery life and a “North Star” GPS style navigation.
What is the advantage of a robotic vacuum cleaner?
In comparison to traditional vacuum cleaners, robot vacuums are relatively quiet and take much less space to store.
But the main advantage is convenience.
We recently became proud owners of a Mi Robot Vacuum manufactured in China by Roborock Technology.
The Mi Robot Vacuum is an intelligent cleaner fitted with a high precision laser distance sensor that can create a map of your home and calculate a precise cleaning route as it goes. It works its way methodically around the selected area and automatically navigates back to the charging dock when it is finished. All you have to do is empty it.
We named the unit “Dusty”. Dusty can be left to clean the floors of our house while we attend to other more important matters. A mobile phone app allows Dusty to be controlled and monitored from anywhere that there is internet access.
My wife Chris says…
“We love our new pet Dusty! It is very quiet, maps out each room first, then goes about vacuuming the floor, carpet, tiles and wood. It does the lot with quiet ease. One chore I always hated doing was vacuuming. Now it’s so easy, I just press the start and it’s off.
We no longer have to crouch down and awkwardly manoeuvre the vacuum pipe, cords and hose around and under the beds and and under chairs. The Mi Robot vacuum does it all for you while you are out shopping or getting on with other more enjoyable things”.