Kiwibot unveiled new partners and an updated robot that the company says will help propel them to massive scale.
The land-based delivery robot announced a handful of new delivery partners, new city testbeds and new manufacturing partners that will push the company further out of a working concept to what could be major and speedy rollouts of the adorable robot.
“Our delivery infrastructure and integration methodology will allow us to deploy service in just weeks,” said Deigo Prada, chief operating officer at Kiwibot. “By the end of 2021, we want to scale our business, which means we will operate with deployments of 200-plus robots.”
That is an aggressive goal for the company, which reported having built about 400 robots and completed about 150,000 deliveries so far through various partnerships, especially on college campuses. Lately, however, the company has been working with cities to test out what a larger-scale rollout would look like.
Last summer, the company expanded to San Jose, California, which became the first city to connect to the company’s “robot API” that allows delivery sources like restaurants or retail businesses to tap into Kiwibot’s infrastructure to complete their orders. Retail giant Shopify was in the mix with the test, as was restaurant ordering platform Ordermark.
Operators on either platform could request a bot to show up and make a delivery. It was a small test, but it launched the new model of business-to-business service at the heart of the sci-fi logistics company.
In that launch, about 25 of the robots catered to a small region of downtown San Jose.
The successful test led the company to a similar test in LA, and it just announced another one in Santa Monica, Calif. The company also announced “Shopify-powered portals” are expanding in L.A., San Jose, Miami, Pittsburg and Detroit. Chick-fil-A will also begin testing the bots, but it’s unclear in which markets the chicken-sandwich juggernaut would be conducting bot-borne deliveries.
To build enough robots for all of that demand, Kiwibot partnered with Segway as a manufacturing partner to develop the star of the latest announcement: Kiwibot 4.0.
The company unveiled its 4.0 robot in a series of fun vignettes, a thumping base introduction to the new machine, a funky anime-inspired montage and a meeting between the new bot and an (also adorable) little hacker girl who built her own Kiwibot. Check out the announcement below.
The latest iteration is a Level-3 automated bot, which means it can handle most real-world encounters. Special situations will still alert a human supervisor to take control. The new bot brings in a lot of technology upgrades from full-range LIDAR to see better, new cameras to do the same, more accurate GPS sensors and more sophisticated AI. The most useful thing for end users is a larger, automatic door that removes all contact from the process.
Like many of the robotics competitors out there, Kiwibot 4.0 is pretty darn cute, but the company pushed to make it just absurdly cute.
“It’s the most advanced urban robot, it is also designed to be the cutest,” said CEO Felipe Cortés.
The new bot has 22 new faces to show various emoji-like emotions from happiness to frustration or to wink at deliver customers.
So far, there’s no expression to show the climate effects of the bots, but Cortés said that was a big focus, especially in the Santa Monica testing. The test, which is already running, marks the nation’s first zero-emission delivery zone to explore the model, but also measure how much electric delivery bots could save in emissions compared to car-based delivery drivers.
Cortés said 80 percent of deliveries today are delivered by car, which would rise by 30 percent for just urban deliveries if order growth continues as it was projected pre-pandemic. He added that each delivery is saving 1,000 grams of Co2 per delivery.
Where all those tests go and whether the company really does any 200-bot deployments remains to be seen, but between Kiwibot and its competitors racing for scale one delivery at a time, the future is looking awfully cute and convenient.