Cartken rolls out Nvidia chip-based delivery bots as a service

Cartken rolls out Nvidia chip-based delivery bots as a service

There’s a smart new robot on the sidewalk in the robot world, serving coffee, sprinkles and a taste of fun.

The robot is getting attention from a startup in Oakland, California Kartkin. The company, which was founded in 2019, has rapidly deployed bots to a handful of customer apps, including Starbucks and Grubhub deliveries.

Chris Birch, CEO of Cartken, says he and co-founders Jonas Witt, Jake Stillman and Anjali Jindal Naik were excited about the potential for robots due to the readiness and affordability of the technology. The four Google graduates decided the timing was right to take the leap to start a company together.

“What we saw was a technological tipping point where we can get small, self-driving vehicles to run on the street,” says Birch. “Because it doesn’t make sense to build a $20,000 robot that can serve up burritos.”

Cartken is among a group of Nvidia Jetson-backed Autonomous Mobile Robotics (AMR) startups that are advancing agricultural technology, manufacturing, retail and last-mile delivery.

New and existing companies are seeking commercial efficiencies as well as labor support amid the ongoing shortages in the post-Covid era, driving up market demand.

Revenue from last-mile automated deliveries is expected to grow more than 9-fold to $670 million in 2030, compared to $70 million in 2022, according to ABI research.

Cartken offers bots as a service (RaaS) to customers in a pay-per-use model. In this way, as a provider of white label technology, Cartken enables companies to customize bots to their own brand appearance and specific application features.

It’s among a growing group of companies riding the RaaS wave, with ambitions as far afield as remote on-demand museum visits to autonomous industrial lawn mowers.

Much of this is made possible by the powerful Nvidia Jetson embedded computing units, which can handle multiple sensors and cameras.

“Cartken chose the Jetson edge AI platform because it provides superior embedded computational performance, which is essential to power Cartken’s advanced AI algorithms. In addition, the low power consumption allows Cartken robots to operate for an entire day on a single battery charge,” says Birch.

The company relies on the Nvidia Jetson AGX Orin to power six cameras that aid in mapping and navigation as well as odometers to measure the physical distance of movement.

By harnessing the Jetson, Cartken bots run Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, or SLAM, to automatically create maps of their surroundings for navigation. “It’s basically a level four autonomy — it depends on visual processing, so we can map an entire area,” Birch says.

“The nice thing about our navigation system is that it works both indoors and outdoors, so GPS is optional — we can determine locations based on purely visual features.”

Cartken is a member of Nvidia Inception, a program that helps startups with GPU technologies, support software development and business.

Cartken robots provide Grubhub delivery services at the University of Arizona and Ohio State. Grubhub users can order from the app as they normally would, and get a tracking link to track the progress of their orders. They were told their delivery would be by a robot, and they could use the app to open the robot’s lid to grab the grub and set off.

Some may wonder if the connection fee for this entertaining delivery technology is the same. “I think it’s the same thing, but you don’t have to tip,” Birch says.

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation is the distributor of Cartken Corporation in Japan. It relies on Cartken robots to deploy to AEON Malls in Tokoname and Toki to deliver Starbucks coffee and food.

Companies are also testing a “smart city” concept for external delivery of Starbucks merchandise within adjacent parks, apartments and homes. In addition, Mitsubishi, Cartken, and others are working on deliveries within a multi-level office building.

Looking ahead, Cartken’s CEO says the next big challenge is scaling up robotics to keep up with demand. It has strong demand from partners, including Grubhub, Mitsubishi and UK delivery company DPD.

Cartken in September announced a partnership with Magna International, the world’s leading automotive supplier, to help scale its robotics manufacturing range. The agreement provides for the production of thousands of AMRs as well as the development of additional robot models for different use cases.

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