If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Grocery giant Kroger just announced a pilot program to test autonomous last-mile grocery delivery in select areas. Kroger is partnering with driverless delivery company Nuro for the test. Same-day orders will be fulfilled by Nuro's autonomous fleet after customers within the pilot area place orders through the Nuro app or Kroger's ordering interface. The pilot area hasn't been announced yet, but the program is expected to start this fall. The announcement comes close on the heels Kroger's recent partnership announcement with Ocado, the leading British grocery delivery service.
Ask most of the people developing autonomous vehicles how robo-cars will change the world, and most will say safety--more than a million people die on the road every year, and self-driving cars could prevent some of those deaths. Some might say smarter cars can battle congestion. Ask Dave Ferguson, though, and he'll pitch the idea that this technology could make moving about so efficient and affordable that transportation becomes effectively free. But first, before the zeroes and ones can do any of that, they may bring you your groceries. If you shop at Kroger, that is, and are cool with a Lilliputian pseudo-car pulling into your driveway all by itself.
Self-driving robots for urban delivery are on the way, aided by investment from some big players in the industry. Boxbot, an Oakland startup that makes self-driving delivery robots, just raised $7.5 million in a seed round that included investment from Toyota AI Ventures, the AI-focused venture subsidiary of the recently-formed Toyota Research Institute. "I've previously argued that it will be years before we share the roads with fully-autonomous, Level 5 self-driving cars," says Jim Adler, Managing Director of Toyota AI Ventures. "That said, there are specific use cases and environments where autonomous vehicles could hit the roads now. Self-driving package delivery is another example of just such a use case."
A last-mile delivery robot named Robby, which has been undergoing real-world testing in California, just got a facelift. Robby 2 has a more robust drivetrain (necessary for the Bay Area's hilly terrain and terrible sidewalks) and a sleek new body that's supposed to give it "a clean and yet warm, inviting look," according to a spokesperson. Considering an older version of Robby looked like a cooler on hardware store casters, the update is welcome. With San Francisco residents tossing Bird electric scooters in the bay and hurling rocks at Google buses, it's no surprise Robby Enterprises, the company behind the robot, is keen to make its machines as appealing as possible to the public. The city has heavily restricted use of delivery robots to specific defined corridors, and humans still need to accompany the systems as they undergo real-world trials.
When asked what kind of company it is, the team at Kiwi Campus always says that it is a delivery company, not a robotics firm -- even though in these early days, its delivery robots are probably the most recognizable thing about the company. But, according to co-founder and CTO Jason Oviedo, when he and co-founder and CEO Felipe Chavez Cortes were first thinking about founding a firm, robotics wasn't on their minds. Building a delivery service -- for students, by students -- was. However, Oviedo told PYMNTS in a recent interview, it didn't take them very long to figure out that pure play delivery wasn't a market where they could make a lot of progress, and it wasn't until they started revising that initial idea that they started thinking about automation -- and ultimately delivery robots -- as their best entry point for the market. "That makes a huge different because our entire process and design isn't centered on building the flashiest robot -- it is about how to use a robot to make the delivery process faster, cheaper and better."
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.
So far, Agility Robotics has sold three Cassie robots (University of Michigan is a customer, for example) and has sales for another three in progress. The goal is to sell another six Cassie robots, "so optimistically 12 customers total for the entire production run of Cassie," Shelton tells CNBC Make It. "That is obviously, though, a relatively compact market, and is not why we're doing the company," says Shelton, in an interview with CNBC Make It. Indeed, the next generation of the company's legged robots will also have arms, says Shelton. And one target use for the more humanoid robot will be carrying packages from delivery trucks to your door. Shelton says his house is a perfect example of how a legged robot would assist in delivery.
Self-driving robots could be delivering lunch to your desk by the end of this year. Starship Technologies plans to launch 1,000 bots to corporate and academic campuses in Europe and the US within the year. It could become one of the biggest autonomous delivery services in the world with armies of robots carrying out a multitude of tasks. Created by the people who founded Skype, the company has raised around $17 million (£12 million) in venture capital funding. Cute robots could be delivering lunch to your desk by the end of this year.
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.
Woowa Brothers has invested $2 million in US-based robotics startup Bear Robotics, the company announced. The South Korean food-tech firm made the investment in the form of convertible bonds in Bear Robotics' seed round. Woowa, which runs South Korea's largest food delivery app Baedal Minjok, has previously stated it wanted to expand in AI and robotics. Last month it announced that it is developing a delivery robot that will be trialed in food malls as early as May. Bear Robotics, which was founded by ex-Google developer John Ha last year, works to improve restaurant processes through automation.