Skype has launched "Starship Technologies", a company that plans to employ small, wheeled robots to deliver items to the homes of consumers.
Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, the co-founders of Skype, launched the company in 2014 with the concept that the deliveries will be sent to a central hub before the six-wheeled, electric-powered autonomous robots make deliveries to homes in 5 to 30 minutes. The robots are installed with a hollow centre and a lockable carrying case.
Starship Technologies said that the robot will be able to carry "the equivalent of two grocery bags."
Heinla explained that the robots have sensors and cameras that help it find its way on the streets. It identifies obstacles and stops moving at any sign of hurdle.
"It drives only 99% autonomously, having had its designated local area mapped and re-mapped to know the exact local layout, and is then supervised the entire time by a human operator who overseas its journey," he added.
He also explained that if for any reason the robot is meddled with, "the human operator will be able to see at all times through the robot's eyes and can even have two-way conversations with those around it."
The robot is always connected to the Internet and can be tracked by GPS, which gives the operator its exact location. Heinla said that the initial testing process of the robots involved it driving at 100 km speed and meeting nearly 5,000 pedestrians.
"On average, 80% to 90% of passers-by showed no reaction to the robot whatsoever, while 10% to 20% expressed a positive reaction," he added.
Starship Technologies has planned to launch the robots in the UK and an unnamed city in the U.S. However, these two countries are already struggling to make road rules in order to control the constantly expanding category of autonomous automobiles, Mashable India reported.
Heinla said that it depends on the discretion of local councils to permit vehicles on pavements, and they have planned a real world trial of the robot service for the UK's Royal Borough of Greenwich in 2016. Austria has already allowed Starship Technologies to operate on their streets, he added.
Starship Technologies plans to collaborate with distribution partners in the UK and US to start their services there in 2016.