Your late-night pizza binges and lazy Saturday morning bagel orders are about to get a futuristic upgrade thanks to a new kind of a delivery service that replaces man with machine.
This week, Yelp's food delivery investment, Eat24, announced a partnership with Marble, the makers of "your friendly neighborhood robot," to begin testing robot food deliveries around San Francisco.
The Bay Area robotics company claims to be "creating a fleet of intelligent courier robots to reliably and securely transport the goods that people need and want in a way that is accessible to everyone." Though the Marble machines will replicate the duties of a red-blooded delivery person, don't expect a human-like Android to arrive at your door, tacos in tow.
The clunky machine, which looks more like an office copier on wheels than the Terminator, uses a combination of supercomputers, high-res 3D maps, cameras, and sensors to navigate the city with minimal collateral damage to passersby or your Pad Thai order. And while the street-savvy bot won't be able to climb up to your fifth floor walk-up, it does have a built-in security system, ensuring that no hungry thieves intercept your order along the way.
Users who opt for the robot delivery will be texted a customized pin that unlocks the Marble cargo compartment. After the delivery is complete and the cargo bay is closed, the robots will navigate to a new restaurant or back home to HQ to await their next order. As for tips, those are still appreciated, and go to Marble rather than directly into a person's pocket.
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Though the self-navigating machines bearing the Yelp Eat24 logo were first spotted earlier this month, this week marks the official unveiling of the high-tech delivery service. While Marble's website lays out plans to deliver other essentials in the future, from medicine to toilet paper, the Yelp partnership is the company's first big opportunity to test out their technology on real people.
However, the company's Head of Delivery Operations, Shalin Sheth, says that their partnership with the robotics company is mostly experimental, and doesn't necessarily mean the end of person-to-person delivery as we know it. "People running restaurants are going to want to know, 'Should I start using technologies like this as they come online?' We need to figure out what works," he tells TechCrunch.
Yelp Eat24's foray into artificially intelligent employees follows the lead of other food-focused companies that have laid out plans to turn over some of their labor to robots, including the fast casual chain Caliburger, which will debut a burger-making robot called "Flippy" in 2018.
Though the initial trial runs of the Marble delivery bots will be accompanied by a living, breathing chaperone—in case any routine deliveries go awry—soon enough, those hoping to get their grub without having to put on pants may be able to alleviate awkward delivery guy encounters altogether with the help of a futuristic friend on wheels.