Photographer: Peti Kollanyi/Bloomberg

Forget Flight, the Future of Delivery is a Six-Wheeled Bot

With Amazon's drones not yet a reality, a billionaire-backed startup is making the first steps toward BB-8 or Wall-E bringing home your weekly shopping. While that may sound fantastical, these robots are already rolling along sidewalks from Arkansas to Estonia, by way of London. Photographs by Peti Kollanyi/Bloomberg

  1. Looking to the Future
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    Looking to the Future

    Starship, a company created by two of Skype's co-founders, has developed this six-wheeled delivery robot. It has already logged more than 1,900 miles in testing.

  2. This is NOT a Cooler
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    This is NOT a Cooler

    The robot's cargo hold is designed to carry up to 20 pounds and travel at up to four miles per hour. "“It’s basically designed to carry three good-sized bags of groceries,” says Allan Martinson, Starship's chief operating officer. Also, because the robot has a simple cargo hold, customers could use the robot to return items, be it dry-cleaning or wrong-sized shoes, to the retailer.

  3. Eyes on the Road, or Sidewalk, or Beach
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    Eyes on the Road, or Sidewalk, or Beach

    Starship's robot has nine cameras to help it navigate busy city sidewalks. The robot is programmed to wait for large groups of people crossing in front of it. And while designed to operate autonomously most of the time, a human driver can pilot it remotely, if it gets into a bind.

  4. Can Go Anywhere
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    Can Go Anywhere

    With six wheels driven by four independent motors, the robot can climb single steps and curbs, potentially making a delivery direct to a customer's door.

  5. Coming to a Street Near You
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    Coming to a Street Near You

    In its trials so far, the Starship robots have encountered some 120,000 pedestrians. So far, no one has tried to abuse it. “It is really amazing but people seem to have an instant emotional connection to the robot,” says Starship co-founder Janus Friis.

  6. Light Up
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    Light Up

    An electronic lock keeps cargo safe en route, while the robot's ability to send an operator its current location and even live video feed from its cameras is designed to deter potential thieves.

  7. Check Up
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    Check Up

    While airborne drones are grounded in a regulatory fog, the wheeled bots travel on sidewalks not roads, which simplifies getting government approvals to operate.

  8. Possiblities
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    Possiblities

    At the beach? Want a beer? These bots can deliver. Its cameras can even check ID to ensure you are old enough to consume alcohol.