It's like a mix between R2-D2 and a delivery boy. A European company called Starship Technologies has created a delivery robot, which will hit the sidewalks and roads of D.C. in the next month.
"The robot creates a 3D map of it's world around itself," said Henry Harris-Burland, a spokesman for the company. "And it triangulates itself to the nearest inch, using this 3D map."
The robot is already in use across Europe, and is actively doing deliveries in approximately 40 cities. Now, the company is making their debut in the United States, bringing the technology to Washington, D.C. and Redwood City, California.
Harris-Burland said that the deliveries will be limited at first, as they do studies in the district. Within two years, he said the company planned to scale up, bringing thousands of deliveries to the city. He said that eventually these robots will be 99-percent autonomous, meaning that they can even cross roads on their own. He said human supervision would only be used if the robot got itself in a jam, and needed help.
"The robot can drive autonomously," he said. "We know where every crossing is. We know where the potholes are. The less than perfect sidewalks."
The robots are no more than a few feet tall, and the width is approximately the size of a pedestrian. Harris-Burland said that these robots will automatically move out of the way of people and other obstacles, by using their cameras and sensors.
The company has also added many security features to the robot, to avoid a similar fate as "HitchBOT." That robot was circulated around the world in a 2015 social experiment, before it was destroyed by some vandals in Philadelphia.
"The bots are fully equipped with cameras," said technology reporter Liz Mayes. "With alarms. With a two-way speaker. So the would-be vandals can be notified that the police are on the way."
The company's plan is that customers will eventually be able to make their order by an app, which will send these robots from a hub to the participating restaurant or store. The robots will be able to hold about 40 pounds inside. The customer will be able to open the robot to get the food, using a secret code.
"It's cool," said Magdelena Stabel. "It's a good idea. But I don't know. It's kind of weird."
"It's crazy," said her friend, Navina Heckmannoblumm "I've never seen that before."
"Wow," said Derek Metcalf. "That's deep."
Yes it is, Derek. Welcome to the future!