Starship Technologies, a delivery robot startup founded in 2015 by two Skype co-founders, is launching its autonomous delivery service at corporate and academic campuses in Europe and the US. For the last three months, Starship's six-wheeled robots have been delivering food and office supplies around software company Intuit's 4.3-acre campus in Mountain View, California. Ahti Heinla, Starship CEO, CTO and co-founder, tells The Robot Report that Starship expects to scale this service to "hundreds of campuses" and about 1,000 robots by the end of 2018. There are 10 delivery robots that Compass pays for by the month. Heinla said Intuit's employees don't pay extra when they order food or supplies via the Starship app.
For those who still doubt the future of last-mile delivery belongs to robots, this must have been a jolting week. First, Starship Technologies, a robotics firm founded in 2014 by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, announced its robots would begin delivering food to dorm rooms at George Mason University in Maryland. Now Amazon, the company with perhaps the most to immediately gain or lose by how it responds to the competition nipping on its heels in the fast delivery game, has announced its own rolling robot. The Amazon robot is named Scout. As my ZDNet colleague reported, six of them are being trialed in a small testbed in Washington State.
Starship's delivery robots collect food or drinks from a business park's canteen before bringing it to the front door of a particular building. Srivathsan Canchi is one of "thousands" of office workers at the sprawling headquarters of technology firm Intuit who has been ordering his coffee from a robot. There's no need for the product manager to stand in line anymore, all the more useful since he injured his foot. Instead he opens the Starship Technologies app on his phone, and orders his caffeinated drink. Around 15 minutes later, a dog-sized robot on wheels rolls around the corner to meet Canchi at the front of his building.
The dream of robots bringing lunch to the office just moved a step closer to reality. More than two years ago, the co-founders of Skype revealed a six-wheeled robot they hoped would drive on pavements and make deliveries. After more than 100,000 miles of experimental testing, Starship Technologies is ready to set its robots free. For the last three months, the robots have been delivering food from cafeterias and office stationery around the 4.3 acre campus of California-based software company Intuit. Workers at the firm use Starship's app to select what food they want to order and drop a pin on a map – in a similar way to how the Uber app works – for where the delivery should be made.
From humanoid robots being launched into space to medical mechanisms with "dexterous 3D-printed fingers", the world of robotics is ripe with opportunity. It's a prosperous technology, with insight from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) revealing that "More than 3 million industrial robots will be in use in factories around the world by 2020." Examining the results of its global survey of 7,000 employees in seven countries, IFR also adds that "Nearly 70 per cent of employees believe that robotics and automation offer the opportunity to qualify for higher-skilled work." Without a doubt, the progress of robotics vs the progress of graduates is questionable. While futurists and philosophers believe robots are coming for people's jobs, some believe that they will harmoniously live alongside workers in peace, enhancing roles rather than ruining them.