Over the lastyear, FedEx has been working with Savioke, a Silicon Valley company that makes autonomous indoor delivery robots, to develop a robot delivery system for its repair facility in Collierville, Tennessee. The bots are used by workers to move items around the office, cutting down on wasted time, and storage space, as workers no longer have to spend time walking around picking up and dropping off items, or need a mailroom clerk to do it for them.
Savioke has spent the last few years building its Relay robot, a stout trashcan-height bot that can autonomously ferry about 10 pounds of goods around. The robot combines a range of technologies to see and navigate the world on its own, including lidar (the laser radar technologies powering the eyes of self-driving cars) and depth-sensing 3D vision cameras (similar to those found in a Microsoft Kinect). The company has been building relationships with hotels to use Relays as replacements for the menial tasks done by concierge and other hotel staff. Instead of a worker delivering room service or a toothbrush, hotels can now press a button on a tablet, have a Relay come to them, load it up, and send it to a guest, freeing up their time to do more important tasks.
Hotels need to install a wireless system in their elevators so that Relays can open the doors on their own. The bots, which can be rented from Savioke for $2,000 a month, can navigate through areas that have been mapped, even if there are new obstacles, such as chairs that have been moved around, or people. Relays have completed over 100,000 autonomous deliveries at a range of hotels owned by Sheraton, Aloft, Holiday Inn, Westin, and others. The robots make little beeps as they carry out their errands, and the touchscreen on their fronts tell passersby what they’re up to as they’re out. When they show up to a guest’s door, they open their cargo door, say hello on the screen, and let the guests interact by pushing a few buttons to say whether they were happy with their delivery. Savioke’s robots have also started popping up at a few other office facilities around the US.
Read more at Quartz.