Despite what the Terminator franchise would have you believe, robots are more likely to deliver a couple of cold beers (or promo products) than to decimate human civilization. The robots of today are more likely to bring good cheer than strike fear in the hearts of those who encounter them. At least, that’s how the masses have reacted to Relay, the autonomous delivery robot created by tech firm Savioke. As part of a live demo, Relay rolled into the 2017 ASI Power Summit for the “Rise of the Robots: Industrial Revolution or Sci-Fi Apocalypse” session, accompanied by Jeff Soares, a sales exec for Savioke.
Right now, Savioke has deployed a fleet of 100 Relay robots in a diverse range of businesses. The robot delivers toothbrushes and fresh linens to guests at hotels, traveling up and down elevators, and skirting passersby with ease. He delivers parts to mechanics at a logistics factory. He brings bottled water to seniors in danger of dehydration at elder care facilities. The company is even working with hospitals to create secure prescription medicine delivery to patients. “It’s beyond the concept stage,” Soares said of Relay. “He’s out there delivering.”
Savioke offers “robots as a service” for $66 a day, handling all the setup and maintenance, so a business owner “doesn’t’ have to be an expert in robotics,” Soares said. With Relay, Savioke set out to create a robot that was safe and unobtrusive. “We want to put him out where people’s lives don’t need to change,” Soares said.
Soares also addressed the topic that often comes up when robots are discussed: whether such contraptions are job-killers. So far, Soares said, Relay has not caused a single job loss. The robot is able to take on menial delivery tasks, freeing employees up for higher-level jobs, he said.
The company is already working on Relay 2.0, which will be able to deliver more items to multiple locations, rather than just going from point A to B and back again. That could make Relay intriguing for the promo products markets - as a worker in factories and warehouses, as well as a brandable part of live events, like trade shows, product launches and concerts.
Soares believes robots like Relay will only become more prevalent in the future, and he believes that’s a good thing. “We hope that robots will really allow us to have better experiences and a richer life,” he said.