One potential benefit of a city filled with people looking down at their phones is that they might be better able to see all the little delivery robots scurrying around on the ground. The sidewalks will be getting even more crowded as both Pepsi and Ninebot, Segway’s parent company, have announced separate delivery robot initiatives.
Pepsi is starting small, delivering snacks and drinks to students on the campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California using a robot built by Bay Area company, Robby. Students with a UoP email address can use the snackbot app to summon Pepsi brand drinks and snacks to be delivered between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to designated areas across campus via the autonomous rover-style robot.
The Pepsi/Robby partnership is reminiscent of Kiwi and Starship’s existing work. Both Kiwi and Starship make small cooler-sized, autonomous rover robots. Kiwi has been delivering food to the University of California at Berkeley, and recently expanded to the Westwood neighborhood of LA, where it is looking to start making deliveries at UCLA. Starship is focusing on academic and corporate campuses as well and is already making deliveries on Intuit’s Bay Area office complex.
Starship may be getting some competition on the corporate delivery front. At CES next week, Ninebot–Segway will show off its new Loomo delivery bot. It looks like a filing cabinet on wheels with a touchscreen and drawers that slide out. The company’s press announcement didn’t provide too many details, but did say “Loomo Delivery is designed to provide a comprehensive autonomous delivery solution for office buildings, shopping malls, and other destinations.”
From that description and accompanying pictures, the Loomo does not look that rugged, and perhaps is meant for indoor delivery only. If true, this indoor-only approach could either be extremely limiting for its adoption, or it could help Loomo stand out in the robot delivery space.
And that delivery space is getting crowded. Pepsi/Robby, Ninebot-Segway, Kiwi, Starship, Marble, Postmates, Woowa Bros., and Alibaba are just some of the big name players. And I expect we’ll see a few more show off their robotic stuff at CES next week. I’ll be keeping an eye underfoot for sure.