Its not every day that you are wandering around your neighborhood and get a glimpse of the future. Yet there I was minding my own business when I bumped intowhat appeared to be a Yelp/Eat24 delivery robot cruising around San Franciscos Mission District on a Friday afternoon.
To be clear, the robot didnt appear to be working, as it was flanked by two photographers intent on capturing its movements as it slowly crossed Valencia Street. This was more of a photo shoot than it was a delivery operation.
Nor was it entirely autonomous: Despite the presence of LiDAR and cameras on the robots body, it appeared to be steered by a woman following close behind who was holding a PlayStation controller.
But it does point to a day when robots would eventually replacehumans in yet another job in this case, that of the Yelp/Eat24 delivery carrier.
Yelp, of course, declined to comment on the clearly branded robot wandering around San Francisco, butthere are a few things notable about it.
For one, the unit was apparently supplied by Marble, a robotics outfit launched out of hardware incubator Lemnos Labs last year. Marble was founded by a group of electrical engineering grads from Carnegie Mellon who worked at places like Apple, Google and Astrobotic Technologybefore coming together to work on a ground delivery robot.
Since we last covered Marble, which was then in the middle of fundraising, the company has secured investment from firms such as Maven Ventures, Amplify Partners, SV Angel, Promus Ventures and S2 Capital, as well as angels that include Cruise founder Kyle Vogt, Tapjoy founder Lee Linden, Sincerely found Matt Brezina and OpenAI founder Greg Brockman. Marble naturally also declined to comment.
After first putting an image of the robot on Twitter, multiple peoplesuggested its development represented Peak SF i.e. the notion that local technologists will push the limits of whats possible, regardless of how ridiculous they might seem.
It raises questions both practical and philosophical: One the one hand, what does it mean for our society that we will soon see a locked food delivery robot driving by the homeless? On the other, what do we really think the survival rate will be for these machines?
Theres little doubt that in the coming decadescars and trucks will drive themselves and your delivery order will come via robot. And if that innovation isnt being led by Eat24, then a company like DoorDash or Postmates will beat them to it.
The deeper subtext, to paraphraseDr. Ian Malcolm, is that the people here are so preoccupied with whetheror not they could (build a food delivery robot), they didnt stop to think if they should.
But I dont have answers to any of the questions above. Im just disappointed that the Marble robot isnt nearly as cute as the one being built byStarship Technologies.