Piaggio, best known for its Vespa-branded scooters, established its Boston-based PFF offshoot back in 2015, and two years later gave a glimpse of its first products: small and large autonomous robots called Gita and Kilo, respectively. PFF spent several years refining the smaller incarnation ahead of its official launch last October, at which point it revealed that anyone would be able to buy their very own Gita for $3,250. Now, PFF is looking to increase Gita’s utility in a variety of public settings, thanks to partnerships with Cincinnati’s CVG International Airport, a retirement community in Florida, a food delivery company in Kentucky, and a retail mall in Turkey.
Demand for professional service robots continues to rise, with data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) revealing this week that sales increased by 32% to $11.2 billion globally in 2019. The IFR also anticipates that COVID-19 will only serve to accelerate this upward trend, with robotics disinfection, logistics, and delivery serving to help people remain distanced from each other. Moreover, mass market service robots for personal and domestic use are also on the rise, according to IFR, including floor-cleaning and lawn-mowing robots, with sales growing 20% to $5.7 billion in 2019.
Follow the leader
Gita’s basic raison d’être is to follow its owner around and carry their stuff, with the ability to travel at up to 6 miles per hour. Using on-board cameras as sensors, Gita pairs with its owner through recognizing their shape and size, but it also recognizes other human forms so it can move around them and continue following the correct person.
Gita measures just 27in (L) x 22.3in (W) x 24in (H) on the outside, and can carry up to 40 pounds of cargo — this could be anything from gym gear and kids’ toys to groceries.
Business as usual
As part of its new pilot program, Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky’s CVG international airport will use Gita across a variety of use cases, including providing contactless concierge services for travelers.
Elsewhere, a retirement community* in Florida is also shaping up to adopt Gita and help residents with their shopping and even golfers during tournaments, though this isn’t yet a done deal. And Delivery Co-op, a restaurant delivery service in Lexington, Kentucky, will also use Gita for contactless deliveries. In Turkey, one of PFF’s only international pilot programs, the Doğan Group will trial Gitas at one of its retail malls and a waterfront marina, where the two-wheeled bot could serve people beverages, bring them their shopping, and more.
While it’s still very early days for both PFF and Gita, it’s entering an increasingly busy field. The COVID-19 crisis in particular has proven to be a catalyst for businesses seeking safe ways to continue operating. In the months that followed the big global lockdown, countless examples emerged from the public and private spheres showing how robots could play a role in the so-called “new normal,” for hospitals, airports, offices, coffee shops, and more.
At more than $3,000 a pop, Gita is likely to be a tough sell for most consumers, which is why a B2B program makes a great deal of sense. Deeper-pocketed businesses can dole out cash for several Gitas, which they can then offer to their own customers as value-added services or monetize directly in the form of short-term rentals to carry people’s stuff.
*This article was updated to remove the company name, as it hasn’t yet signed to use PFF’s Gita robot, contrary to what VentureBeat was originally told.
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