Takeout meets tech as robots take on delivery service in San Jose

Amanda del Castillo Image
Friday, September 18, 2020
Robots take on takeout delivery service in San Jose
A crew of robots is on a mission in the South Bay, and their jobs are even more important during this pandemic.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A crew of robots is on a mission in the South Bay, and their jobs are even more important during this pandemic.

On the day skies turned orange across the Bay Area, an ABC7 News photojournalist captured a bizarre scene outside San Jose City Hall.

There were about a dozen robots rolling through downtown. Curiosity led us to Paper Moon Café DTSJ, where takeout meets tech.

Café owner Jerry Wang opened his shop in the middle of the pandemic. With safety a top concern, he turned to KiwiBot.

The Berkeley-based delivery robot startup provides people with a contactless experience.

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The device was designed to disinfect large rooms like school cafeterias, gyms and other commercial businesses.

"The pandemic has been able to help us realize this," Wang said. "I think it only accelerates our ability to start incorporating robots into our day-to-day life."

The bots bat their eyes, come equipped with cameras, and more.

"It was adorable watching them hanging out outside the store doors," Wang added. "Having the eyes blink, turning to hearts- really showing some emotion with how they designed these robots."

Once a tech spectacle, the four employees at the café have grown used to the traveling technology.

"Now we get into situations where, as we're walking around the store, as we're walking down the hallway, we randomly see a robot just wanting to figure out how to walk past us and treated it like normal," Wang shared.

The bots also keep contents locked inside until reaching the right customer.

"The customers that receive the order, they don't need to touch the robot. They open the door through their phones, and they take the meal, or the goods or the order," KiwiBot CEO Felipe Chavez told ABC7 News.

RELATED: South Bay company uses delivery robots to help health care workers battle COVID-19

Beyond those attention-grabbing features, Chavez explained clean energy was the inspiration.

"Normally, a 3,000-pound machine is powered by gasoline, transporting 90% of the goods that we order every day," he said about delivery services. "That's not sustainable, and there are different ways and more sustainable ways to do it."

Chavez continued, "What we're creating is a solution that is going to augment our capabilities as a society."

He said in the last six months alone, KiwiBot's pipeline has exploded.

"We have deployed robots in Berkeley. We made a small deployment in Stanford, Palo Alto for a while. We have also worked with other cities like the city of Sacramento," Chavez said.

He explained, six weeks ago, 25 KiwiBots were deployed in San Jose.

"The City of San Jose is the first city in the world that is integrated with the delivery service and with a robot company," Chavez said. "The city can actually make decisions about the public right of way, because they have information about the robots- where they are, and if it's safe at the pedestrian crossings."

At this moment, Chavez said KiwiBot is beta testing with two companies in San Jose. However, he said nearly 100 restaurants have shown interest, signing up to participate.

Chavez explained his robot crew eliminates person-to-person contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, the service keeps people inside to avoid smoky air, and helps small businesses stay in business.

"What we've done really well has been trying to figure out how to get established through the middle of a pandemic," Wang with Paper Moon Café DTSJ said. "One challenge that we have obviously, is the fact that people don't want to come outside anymore."

For more information on KiwiBot, click here.

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