Imagine this: you just came home from work and you are hungry. So, you decide to order some food online. After patiently waiting for thirty minutes, you receive a notification, your food is finally here. But when you open your door, there’s no one there. Instead, when you look down, you see a futuristic-looking, white robot the size of a shopping basket.
This might sound like science fiction, but it is already a reality for many consumers in Estonia, Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States. The small and stylish robots can deliver groceries, food, drink and other items to nearby communities and on campuses.
Behind this innovation is Starship Technologies, a company founded in 2014 in Estonia by the co-founder and chief architect of Skype, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis. Since then, the company has completed over 3.5 million commercial deliveries, covering a distance of more than 7 million km globally, more than any of its competitors.
“We are revolutionising the way we do shopping and delivery,” says Pol Oliver, the chief financial officer of Starship Technologies. “The robots will free us from wasting time, energy, and emissions on tedious daily chores and journeys in an efficient and sustainable way.”
Delivery robots from the future
Sci-fi has some scary robots. Who can forget HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron’s The Terminator? But this is not the case for Starship’s robots, which have more of an R2D2-like charm. “When first seeing the robots, children and people want to either interact, greet or take pictures with them” says Starship’s Henry Harris-Burland. “But one of the biggest compliments we see, is how quickly Starship robots become the new normal and part of daily life for the community.”
But don’t let their cute looks fool you- these robots are tough and can operate through just about anything. They might be 55 centimetres tall and weigh around 35 kilograms, but they can deliver up to three bags of groceries, food and drink. Thanks to their twelve cameras and six wheels, the robots can also climb kerbs, avoid objects, move out of the way of nearby pedestrians, and even detect obstacles, like moving cars up to 300 metres away.