Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has built robot porter for hotels – Space Egg

The hospitality robot can deliver meals, take laundry to guests and will be starting its first trial in a hotel in Hangzhou in October next. It has a curved aluminium casing covering a set of wheels, and it uses cameras and lasers to navigate. It’s less than a meter (3 feet) in height and moves quite slow, trundling behind humans at a pace of one meter a second.

The Space Egg is not the only robo-porter that has been developed in recent years. There is Botlr, the Savioke ‘robot butler’ for hotels; then we have HOSPI made by Panasonic and designed to carry medical supplies around in hospitals.  All have rather similar characteristics:  they look like boxes on wheels that move small items from A to B and they have (still) failed to become widespread and multi-used. Although this field of innovation is still in its infancy, it is emerging rapidly.

Alibaba has a rich background in robotics, with a lot of relevant experience in building the robots that run automated warehouses. Therefore the company’s entry into the robot porter market could have a significant impact. The company is stated to be working on future variations, including a Space Shuttle for delivering medicines in hospitals. Alibaba aims at ways to customize its robots for new environments, including, potentially, restaurants and offices. In a press statement, Lijuan Chen of Alibaba AI Labs – the group that made the Space Egg – said the robot would “bridge the gap between guest needs and the response time that they expect. The robot will be the ultimate assistant for hotel guests who want everything quickly and conveniently at their fingertips.” Who knows: the next time you order room service, you may be serviced by an egg..!