Diagram for a network of Amazon retrieval robots

Gotta give it to Amazon: they never stop thinking of ways to get stuff to your house.

We uncovered the latest example of that in a just-issued patent for what they are calling an “autonomous ground vehicle” or AGV, which is basically a robot that sits in waiting at your home and goes and picks up your latest deliveries from a centralized pick up center.

The patent, issued today, describes AGVs as follows:

“Autonomous ground vehicles (“AGVs”) are utilized to retrieve items from transportation vehicles (e.g., delivery trucks) for delivery to specified locations (e.g., user residences, etc.). In various implementations, the AGVs may be owned by individual users and/or may service a group of users in a given area (e.g., in an apartment building, neighborhood, etc.).

A “retrieval robot” from Amazon

In a way, the AGVs don’t look that unlike the recently revealed Amazon delivery robot called Scout, but instead of being a delivery bot that brings packages to different homes, the AGV described in Amazon’s patent would primarily act as a retrieval robot that, in many cases, are actually owned by the consumer themselves.

The patent describes various implementations for the retrieval robot that would allow it to be housed within a consumer’s home and be able to autonomously route itself to a coordinated pickup spot from a delivery truck. The patent discusses how a delivery truck could meet multiple retrieval robots from a specific cluster on a regular basis at a pre-arranged location or could alert the robot or robots that they are approaching with a package for delivery. The patent also describes scenarios where multi-family units like condos would be equipped with their own retrieval robot.

What’s fascinating about this new patent is that it shows how Amazon’s effort to equip your homes with technology to help you buy more stuff goes well beyond products like Alexa, smart doorbells or Dash. It now includes potentially equipping you with your own personal robot to go fetch stuff. While it’s still unclear what exactly the business model would be (“a free retrieval bot for every prime customer!”), I can envision a heavily subsidized model where a heavy Amazon users  gets a bot for a lower price.

Either way, welcome to the era of retrieval robots, courtesy of Amazon.

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