Package delivery may be going to the dogs.In the race to automate the delivery of packages and food in urban areas, most companies have been focusing on wheeled robots. But the German automotive company Continental has another idea. At the consumer Electronics in Las Vegas last week, it showed off a four-legged delivery robot designed to walk packages right to customers’ front doors.
In demonstrations at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the battery-powered ANYmal Robot — made by Swiss robotics manufacturer ANYbotics — hopped out of Continental’s CUbE autonomous vehicle, stepped over a scooter in its path and climbed the front steps of a model front porch. Upon reaching the front door, the dogbot raised a paw to ring the doorbell and gently slid a package onto the doorstep. Before returning to the vehicle, the bot did a little dance to celebrate the successful delivery.
“We thought about other use cases and what are the most efficient ways to make deliveries,” said Steffen Hartmann, head of technical project management at Continental. “The problem is, the CUbE can deliver the last mile — but what about the last meters?”
ANYmal weighs 66 pounds and is capable of carrying up to 22 pounds. It isn’t as frisky as a real dog, but at a pace of about one meter per second, it can move from pavement to porch in a matter of seconds. The robot finds its way with help from its wide-angle cameras, sensor-studded feet and a radar-like technology known as LIDAR, which uses beams of laser light to map the surrounding area.
Hartmann said Continental simply “wanted to tease” the delivery system and that there were no immediate plans to bring it to market. If that changes, Contimental will be competing with many other firms that have partnered with robotics companies or developed their own robots designed to deliver food and packages in cities and on college campuses.
“There are a lot of companies,” said Ayanna Howard, chair of the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “Not all of them are going to be successful. Some of it is hype, but some of them are promising.”