Headed to Silicon Valley anytime soon? The place is being invaded by robots. Since August, Savioke’s SaviOne ‘Botlr’ has logged nearly 2500 miles, running around the Aloft Cupertino, while Fellow Robots OSHBot has been roaming the aisles of Orchard Supply Hardware since December. The Robot Economy has left the factory and is headed to a location near you.
Savioke is starting outside of manufacturing and the assembly space focusing on the service industry. Freeing up hotel staff to focus on higher level customer service during peak times, Botlr is able to deliver items from towels to room service by navigating hallways based upon pre-programmed maps and its lidar obstacle avoidance system. One outstanding feature is elevator communication. With a lack of arms, this problem has stumped many other robots when attempting to travel from floor to floor. One less issue to work around when employing robots and it only accepts Tweets as tips (#botlr).
The vision of Savioke is to deploy Botlrs and augment the physically disabled at home or assisted living facilities. Examples like Henry Evans with Robots for Humanity show how physically disabled humans can control full scale robots to do chores around the home. It’s not too far a stretch that within a few years humans can teach their robot(s) routine tasks or allowing them to focus on getting from point A to B without carrying objects from room to room. Several examples like HERB from Carnegie Mellon can already be taught, it’s just a matter of making it a more robust process to work in the home, rather than the lab.
Fellow Robots, OSHBot is trying to free up retail staff as well and improve the customer experience, since it is all too common for me to have to search for associates at large big box stores. With a 3D scanner, it can identify parts and direct customers to their location. Ever the salesbot, it also displays specials as well. If there is assistance beyond what OSHBot can do, there is a Telepresence option with project specific associates. This is really a bonus to me, as there have been times when the associate helping me, was working at the grocery store last week. I was pretty sure he wasn’t an electrical expert.
While both robots are still in their pilot phases, they do anticipate an early adopter program in 2015. As with many other robotic start-ups, the adoption can be slow going as they work out the human robot interaction.
Image credit: Savioke