A Metro store in Dusseldorf has been trialling the use of the robots to assist customers round the store, allowing them to concentrate on ‘hands free’ shopping. These autonomous robots are also being trialled as a method of delivering online groceries to shoppers. The robots operate similarly to self driving cars, with wheels designed in a way that they can go up curbs.
The small Starship robots, which can hold around three bags of groceries weighing up to 15 kilos, have been designed to travel short distances, so are ideally suited to delivering goods in urban areas. The venture was conceived by Ahti Heinla, one of Skype’s original developers and is backed by billionaire Skype co-founder and tech investor Janis Friis. One of the advantages the robot has over drones. like those being tested by Amazon, is that they face less regulatory hurdles.
The company has been trialling the robots in the London borough of Greenwich, to see how effectively it can navigate through crowded streets. They are navigated autonomously, using a 3G GPS signal and have nine cameras to monitor the environment. The target is to be able to bring delivery costs down, enabling smaller businesses to move into ecommerce. In Germany, grocery home delivery and online shopping is starting to gain traction so it will be interesting to see how delivery solutions like this develop.