Ocado, the world's largest online-only grocery retailer, relies on robots to deliver fresh food to hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. Its warehouses are designed like living organisms – there's a central nervous system (software), a cardiovascular system (conveyor belts) and red blood cells (crates). But as online shopping becomes more popular, Ocado is looking to new distribution systems to meet the growing demand.
In the 1990s, fashion's relationship with robots was the stuff of fantasy. On the runway of Alexander McQueen's imaginative Spring/Summer 1999 show, two robotic arms spray-painted a white dress worn by Shalom Harlow. Today, the industry's relationship with automation is much more practical. In the distribution centres of e-commerce giants like the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group and Amazon (which, in 2012, paid $775 million to acquire Kiva Systems, a manufacturer of robotic fulfilment systems used by Gap, Gilt Groupe and Saks 5th Avenue) software-controlled robots routinely navigate giant warehouses, picking and transporting inventory faster and more accurately than humans, enabling services like same-day delivery. "Automated storage and retrieval systems provide high storage density as well as inventory accuracy and management, yet require a smaller footprint," explains Steve Crease, director of operations at Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, which uses ASRS to deliver its "key service level" of same-day delivery.
The aim of the hotel, as CEO Hideo Sawada puts it, is a serious one: to be the most efficient hotel in the world. He draws on comparisons with low-cost airlines that "changed how we travel." Two years ago, as hotel prices continued to rise, the CEO (who runs the nearby Huis Ten Bosch theme park) began discussions with robotics and engineering experts with the aim of creating an efficient hotel, one that costs (both fiscally and environmentally) less. If you thought Hen-na Hotel was a kitschy gimmick, well, that's partly true. Still, the bigger picture here is that researchers from Japan's largest, most influential university are involving themselves and testing out cutting-edge green technology, as well as trying to create a space where both robots and humans can move around and do what they want (or need) to do.
Last year at CES, LG introduced a bunch of new robots because, as near as we could tell, LG figured that robots were cool so they'd better make some robots or something. The most photogenic (and smallest) was Hub, which bore a striking resemblance to Jibo, but we also met two burly service robots designed to work at airports. For CES 2018, LG is adding three more robots to the CLOi (that's pronounced KLOH-ee, obviously) family. New this year are the Serving Robot, Porter Robot, and Shopping Cart Robot, "developed for commercial use at hotels, airports, and supermarkets," and it's definitely not a coincidence that they're just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where LG is also based.