Amazon has created detailed virtual maps to train the company’s new Scout delivery robot.
Scout VP Sean Scott told The Verge that the eCommerce giant has collected 3D data, real-life textures, and even modeled the sidewalk down to the storm drains in order to create the maps and boost the development of the robot.
“We can run thousands of deliveries in simulation overnight versus taking a bot outside in the real world,” Scott says. “The bot doesn’t actually know it’s in a simulation. It thinks it’s in the real world, which is pretty cool.”
Scott added that the company’s other training apparatus includes an indoor robot park, as well as special rigs to test the resilience of the robot’s wheels.
In January, Amazon unveiled Scout, a robot on six wheels about the size of a small cooler that will deliver packages right to consumers’ doors. The company said it will start with six Scouts working Monday through Friday, in the daylight. The robots will follow their routes autonomously, but at least for a while they’ll be accompanied by an Amazon employee.
“We developed Amazon Scout at our research and development lab in Seattle, ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path,” the company said.
In fact, Scott says a major part of Scout’s development is making sure the robots are a natural part of the environment. In addition, it needs to be able to navigate in a way that doesn’t bother pedestrians, including getting out of the way for children, pets, strollers, and the elderly. Scott even showed off two videos of Scout encountering the same neighborhood dog. In the first video, the dog is wary of the robot, but in the second, it barely pays attention to it. “What better way to gauge response than from a pet like this,” he says.
“We have a ladder to the Moon … but we’ve only made it to the first rung of the ladder,” he added. “We’re learning lots, and we’re just getting started.”