Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Amazon’s 'adora-bots' are now making deliveries

The first wave of the retailer's anticipated automated delivery fleet hits the sidewalks.

Image source: Amazon
  • After testing near company HQ, delivery robots are rolling up to random customers' homes in Irvine, CA.
  • The cute little carriers — dubbed "adora-bots" — are already adept at navigating people, pets, and other tricky obstacles.
  • These may be the droids the shipping industry seeks.

If you happen to be walking down a quiet sidewalk in Irvine, California, don't be too surprised to encounter a little blue robot with "Prime" — as in "Amazon Prime" — printed on its side. It's an Amazon Scout robot.

There are currently a "small number" of the all-electric, six-wheeled beasties rolling around town. They're accompanied for now by human Amazon Scout Ambassadors keeping an eye on the bots and answering customers' inevitable questions.

These "adora-bots," Amazon's term, are the online retailer's first foray into real-world deployment of a robotic delivery system. Depending on how effective they are — and how Amazon customers perceive them — these little autonomous droids could represent the leading edge of nationwide robotic delivery. At least in places with sidewalks.

Not their first rodeo

Does the Scout beep when it arrives at its destination? Does it bleep or bloop?

Amazon Scouts were developed in the company's Seattle labs, and first tested near Amazon's headquarters beginning in January 2019. Six of them have been delivering packages in Washington's Snohomish County in daylight hours and all sorts of weather. Being similar in size to largish rolling ice-chests, they're capable of delivering any package fits.

Amazon reports that the Scouts have been making friends along the way — they cite "Winter the cat and the excitable Irish terrier Mickey" in Washington. While the robots need to be able to cross streets and avoid moving vehicles, safely getting around on sidewalks represents an even more difficult technological challenge. Though streets are fairly ordered spaces with lanes and rules, any given sidewalk can be the Wild West, with unpredictable humans — including fast-moving children — and animals, as well as random obstacles such as garbage cans and recycling bins, moving skateboards, and so on. So far, there haven't been any major problems, which is impressive.

A Scout comes to call

Bleep, bloop! Coming through! Image source: Amazon

For Irvine's test program, Amazon is handing out delivery assignments on a random basis, regardless of the delivery option a customer selects at purchase. A big question Amazon's trying to answer is how well the public will respond to Scouts. Right now, encountering a Scout at the end of one's door must seem odd — in Amazon's video, even the actor seems a little unsure about whether she should say "thank you" or something else as she retrieves her package.

It's likely that we'll get used to seeing automated delivery vehicles rolling and buzzing around in time, and that's part of what Amazon is keeping their human eyes on.

That tricky last mile

No matter how streamlined the process of shuttling a package from one city to another has become, there's still the bottleneck at the end of the trip: A driver exiting their truck on foot and manually carrying a package to a door, and then walking back to the truck. In an industry where every second and penny counts, this last-mile segment has been a source of industry frustration.

Delivery bots that run continuously in their routes — continuously shuttling goods without lapses — could provide the solution, assuming the technology is reliable, cost-effective, and customers grow accustomed to dealing with droids. The popularity of automated assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana suggests consumers are moving in that direction. As far as the economic equation goes, these are early days, with lots of research and development costs to be absorbed as the technological and human interaction bugs are sorted out.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

Mystery effect speeds up the universe – not dark energy, says study

Russian astrophysicists propose the Casimir Effect causes the universe's expansion to accelerate.

Black hole accretion disk visualization.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman
Surprising Science
  • Astrophysicists from Russia propose a theory that says dark energy doesn't exist.
  • Instead, the scientists think the Casimir Effect creates repulsion.
  • This effect causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
Keep reading Show less

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast