Segway-Ninebot is debuting an autonomous delivery robot later this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, putting the company among the latest entrants in the last-mile delivery market, according to a company press release.
The company’s new Loomo robot, built by the Segway Robotics division, is “designed to provide a comprehensive autonomous delivery solution for office buildings, shopping malls, and other destinations,” according to the release.
The launch comes one year after the company used CES 2018 to promote the first Loomo device, described as a “robot sidekick and mini personal transporter” that allowed operators to ride it or control it without riding it through app-based commands.
It’s been almost four years since Segway, which for many years was maligned as a symbol of dorkiness, was acquired by Chinese robotics and artificial intelligence technology company Ninebot, a firm that Segway once accused of copying its concepts. Given Ninebot’s areas of engineering expertise, the world should have known right away that Ninebot had bigger, broader plans for Segway than just developing two-wheeled pedestrian vehicles. Indeed, in its release Thursday, the company said that the “core focus of Segway-Ninebot is ‘last mile solutions.'”
Ninebot has also guided Segway into producing scooters, as well as the first AI-enabled Loomo product, derided by Engadget last year as the $1,700 “robotic hoverboard that nobody asked for.” But, the initial Loomo model, with its ability to carry bags or packages and autonomous operation features, has provided a glimpse of where Segway-Ninebot was going next.
The retail impact of the new Loomo delivery bot is not yet clear, and it’s not known whether any retailers or their logistics partners are evaluating its potential for package delivery. Companies like Starship Technologies, with its squat, six-wheeled delivery robot, and Agility Robotics, with its bipedaled Cassie robot, are others looking to autonomous robots at short-distance delivery applications. In a statement, Segway-Ninebot CEO Luke Gao said that Loomo Delivery will be key to last-mile solutions “as cities continue to become more and more populated.”
There are delivery drones and driverless vehicles, autonomous or near-autonomous vehicles that could one day play a greater role in package delivery. Loomo joins a list of exciting concepts that could revolutionize last-mile delivery, an arena that many agree is ripe for market disruption. But, the road to widespread commercial implementation of these concepts remains a long and winding one.