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Marble released its first food robot in San Francisco

(TECH NEWS) Food delivery is getting an upgrade in San Francisco with the help of a new food robot from Yelp24 and Marble.

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Food robot?!

San Francisco residents who order takeout food delivery may soon have a robot delivering them, thanks to the partnership between Yelp24 and the small robotics startup Marble, founded in 2015.

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Yelp acquired Eat24 back in 2014 for $134 million, with an explicit goal of expanding beyond business listing services. Now, three years later, their dream is finally taking shape on an experimental basis.

Play by play

Starting April 12, residents of Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods who order takeout on Yelp’s Eat24 food delivery service will have an option to have a Marble food robot shuttle their food. To make sure customers are not utterly confused, they will receive a text message explaining the new test delivery program, and asking their permission to participate.

If they text back with a ‘yes’, a robot shall be sent for delivery.

On arrival, customers receive their food on the sidewalk (the robots cannot climb stairs, mind you!) Customers are sent a password on their phones ahead of time. This password gives access to the robot’s compartment containing food.

The food is kept warm by Yelp24 heatbags.

However, that may soon change as developers at Marble plan to equip the food robot with temperature control, acting as either refrigerators or ovens.

The set up

The Marble robot, a miniature dryer lookalike, is essentially a white, moving box, with four wheels clearly visible. It shuttles food between the Marble HQ, restaurants and customer homes. Only five restaurants have signed up for the food robot delivery program.

So far, the distances travelled has also been small, typically within a mile.

Even so, for now a human will accompany the Marble robot to ensure smooth operation and perhaps prevent vandalism.

Specs

At top speed, the robot matches human walking. At intersections, the robot checks for incoming cars before crossing. The robots also ignore busy streets and heavy foot-traffic paths, selecting fastest routes to its destination.

Nvidia’s Jetson TX1 AI supercomputers, on-board lidar, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors power the robot.

It can operate day and night using high-resolution 3-D maps, avoid mailboxes, pedestrians, and curious pets.

Marble has not disclosed the cost of the robots, but it is likely very expensive, given that it is a prototype that took a long time to develop, and a first of its kind. The economic viability of a ground-based autonomous is not clear at all.

Food robot squad

CEO of Marble, Matthew Delaney claims that the goal of the company is to create a fleet of robots and partner with companies for delivery, from which it will receive a recurring fee. “We’re initially starting with the meal delivery, we’re also looking at other markets like grocery, and pharmacy,” he said.

But Marble has raised only $ 4 million in seed funding round last April, led by Eclipse, and partnered with Maven Ventures, Amplify Partners and Lemons Labs. Its revenue, if any, is not known.

Marble is sure to face competition from other robot delivery makers like Flirtey, Starship Technologies, and Dispatch.ai.

For now, however, UberEATS and Favor has advantage over these pioneering technologies.
But that is not holding Marble back. A world in which robots deliver anything and everything would save time, money and free people to more worthy things. “This is the biggest opportunity for robotics in front of humanity right now,” Delaney said.

#FoodRobot

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Tech News

Australia wants Facebook and Google to pay media royalties

Australia seeks to require Facebook and Google to pay royalties to media companies for use of news content on their platforms.

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Australia is in the process of requiring tech giants, Facebook and Alphabet, to pay royalties to Australian media companies for using their content. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the move the day after the US Congressional antitrust hearing that put the CEOs of Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple back in the regulatory spotlight.

In addition to the pressure from the United States investigation into market control by these companies, global leaders are calling for similar regulations. Though none have been successful, media companies in Germany, France, and Spain have pushed for legislation to force Google to pay licensing fees to use their news content. Some companies have been pushing for this for years and yet, the tech giants keep dragging out their changes, even admitting their actions are wrong.

In 2019, the Australian government instructed Facebook and Google to negotiate voluntary deals with Australian media to use their content. The Australian government says the companies failed to follow through on the directive, and therefore will be forced to intervene. They have 45 days to reach an agreement in arbitration, after which the Australian Communications and Media Authority will create legally binding terms for the companies on behalf of the Australian government.

Google claims the web traffic that it drives to media websites should be compensation enough for the content. A Google representative in Australia asserts that the government regulations would constitute interference into market competition – which would be the point, Google!

According to a 2019 study, an estimated 3,000 journalism jobs have been lost in the last decade. The previous generation of media companies has paid substantial advertising fees to Google and Facebook while receiving nothing in return for the use of its news content. Frydenberg asserts the regulatory measures are necessary to protect consumers and ensure a “sustainable media landscape” in the country.

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Tech News

Onboarding for customers and employees made easy

(TECH NEWS) Cohere enables live, virtual onboarding at bargain prices to help you better support and guide your users.

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onboarding made easy

Web development and site design may be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean your customers won’t get turned around when reviewing your products. Onboarding visitors is the simplest solution, but is it the easiest?

According to Cohere–a live, remote onboarding tool–the answer is a resounding yes.

Cohere claims to be able to integrate with your website using “just 2 lines of code”; after completing this integration, you can communicate with, guide, and show your product to any site visitor upon request. You’ll also be able to see what customers are doing in real time rather than relying on metrics, making it easy to catch and convert customers who are on the fence, due to uncertainty or confusion.

There isn’t a screen-share option in Cohere’s package, but what they do include is a “multiplayer” option in which your cursor will appear on a customer’s screen, thus enabling you to guide them to the correct options; you can also scroll and type for your customer, all the while talking them through the process as needed. It’s the kind of onboarding that, in a normal world, would have to take place face-to-face–completely tailored for virtual so you don’t have to.

You can even use Cohere to stage an actual demo for customers, which accomplishes two things: the ability to pare down your own demo page in favor of live options, and minimizing confusion (and, by extension, faster sales) on the behalf of the customer. It’s a win-win situation that streamlines your website efficiency while potentially increasing your sales.

Naturally, the applications for Cohere are endless. Using this tool for eCommerce or tech support is an obvious choice, but as virtual job interviews and onboarding become more and more prevalent, one could anticipate Cohere becoming the industry example for remote inservice and walkthroughs.

Hands-on help beats written instructions any day, so if companies are able to allocate the HR resources to moderate common Cohere usage, it could be a huge win for those businesses.

For those two lines of code (and a bit more), you’ll pay anywhere from $39 to $129 for the listed packages. Custom pricing is available for larger businesses, so you may have some wiggle room if you’re willing to take a shot at implementing Cohere business-wide.

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Tech News

Smart clothing could be used to track COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) In order to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 smart clothing may be the solution we need to flatten the curve–but at what cost?

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COVID tracking clothing

When most people hear the phrase “smart clothing”, they probably envision wearables like AR glasses or fitness trackers, but certainly not specially designed fabrics to indicate different variables about the people wearing them–including, potentially, whether or not someone has contracted COVID-19.

According to Politico, that’s exactly what clinical researchers are attempting to create.

The process started with Apple and Fitbit using their respective wearables to attempt to detect COVID-19 symptoms in wearers. This wouldn’t be the first time a tech company got involved with public health in this context; earlier this year, for example, Apple announced a new Watch feature that would call 911 if it detected an abnormal fall. The NBA also attempted to detect outbreaks in players by providing them with Oura Rings–another smart wearable.

While these attempts have yet to achieve widespread success, optimism toward smart clothing–especially things like undershirts–and its ability to report adequately someone’s symptoms, remains high.

The smart clothing industry has existed in the context of monitoring health for quite some time. The aforementioned tech giants have made no secret of integrating health- and wellness-centric features into their devices, and companies like Nanowear have even gone so far as to create undergarments that track things like the wearer’s heart rate.

It’s only fitting that these companies would transition to COVID assessment, containment, and prevention in the shadow of the pandemic, though they aren’t the only ones doing so. Indeed, innovators from all corners of the United States are set to participate in a “rapid testing solutions” competition–the end goal being a cheap, fast, easy-to-use wearable option to help flatten the curve. The “cheap” aspect is perhaps the most difficult; as Politico says, the majority of people have a general understanding of how to use wearable technology.

Perhaps more importantly, the potential for HIPPA violations via data access is high–and, during a period of time in which people are more suspicious of technology companies than ever, vis-a-vis data sharing, privacy could be a significant barrier to the creation, distribution, and use of otherwise crucial smart clothing.

There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, among other things, technological advancement in ways unseen by many of us alive today. Only time will tell if smart clothing–life-saving potential and all–becomes part of that trend.

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