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This autonomous, mobile cargo bot is redefining the handbag

20 September 2017

Gita is an autonomous, mobile cargo robot designed to follow an individual and free their hands as they navigate through the complex spaces of the world.

With max speeds of 22mph, Gita matches the full range of human mobility, from a leisurely jaunt to a vigorous bike ride. (Photo courtesy of Piaggio Fast Forward.)

Created by start-up Piaggio Fast Forward (PFF), co-led through product launch by Beth Altringer, Senior Preceptor in Innovation and Design at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Gita is the company’s first product.

Gita is a rounded, 3ft high robots and creates 3D maps of its surrounding using sensors. It is designed to follow its human owner but it can also use its maps to travel autonomously between waypoints in previously explored areas, detecting and avoiding obstacles along the way.

“Gita exemplifies this vision of a more human-centric city because it is specifically designed for neighbourhood-scale distances, and to carry the most common loads of cargo,” said Altringer. “Most human cargo is about the size of two large shopping bags - much smaller than the cargo space inside a car. If we want to encourage people to walk more, and to be more car-free, we need to find new ways to help them manage cumbersome loads as they move comfortably around town. Gita is a small cargo bot that can carry over 40 pounds of cargo for you while you walk home from work, stop at the grocery store, go for a jog, or ride around your bike.”

Coloured LED strips on its wheels indicate whether the robot is operating normally or having a technical issue. It also has an intuitive touch-screen to streamline human-computer interaction and allow it to follow a user at the touch of one button. 

The large, bicycle-like wheels are designed to operate in ADA-compliant indoor, outdoor, and irregular surface areas. With max speeds of 22mph, Gita matches the full range of human mobility, from a leisurely jaunt to a vigorous bike ride. The secure cargo space is the size of a case of wine.

Altringer has been looking at the human side of mobility and how to extend it. “Lifting 10 pounds can be very easy for one person, but a totally different experience for another person,” she said. “We are interested in augmenting and extending people’s capacity. In the future, I hope that our work matures to a point where we are providing real value and helping all types of people move comfortably through cities and suburbs. Kids, teens, adults, parents, and senior citizens have many different mobility needs. I’d like to see robots like we are building eventually help make cities more accessible and comfortable for everyone. I think people will surprise us when we give them the tools to personalise their journeys and extend their mobility in new ways.”

Video courtesy of Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences


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