Have you ever come across this situation in your childhood where you towed your stuff behind you in a wagon? The company that manufactures the Vespa scooter has a new branch that has created the 21st century equivalent of that wagon. A self-balancing two-wheeled cargo robot that is capable of carrying up to 40 lb (18 kg) of your groceries or other goods, following along behind you or even striking out on its own, has been named Gita. It has been created by the US-based Piaggio Fast Forward.
The name of Gita is pronounced “jee-ta,” which means “short trip” in Italian. It sits 26 inches tall (66 cm), has a zero turning radius, and can travel at bicycle-like speeds of up to 22 mph (35 km/h). Moreover, it can also match the walking speed of its human operator, following them as they mosey hands-free down the sidewalk or along supermarket aisles.
Now, the real question is how does this work? Well, the user wears a white belt with a camera on the front. The system generates a 3D point cloud map of the user’s environment as they travel through it using an existing technology known as SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. Gita finds out its position and that of its user, within that map, with help from a forward-facing stereo camera system that tracks the belt.
While telling New Atlas, Piaggio Fast Forward COO Sasha Hoffman said:
“If you go out of the line of sight, let’s say if you turn around a corner or you may go through an alley, Gita will soon catch up with you. It still knows where it’s going, because it optically has seen the path that you walked.”
In addition to this, once it has followed a user through an environment, it can later use the map that was generated to go back through that environment autonomously. The user can create waypoints along the way, which Gita will then stop at when it makes the trip again on its own.
“If you walked all around your house, you could set up the kitchen, the dining room, the front door and the back entrance as different points on the map. If you were at your front door and you needed to send Gita with a package to your kitchen, there’s a touchscreen interface and you could literally touch it and tell it within two buttons to head for the kitchen.”
The battery of the robot can work for about eight hours of use at walking speed via one three-hour charge. Together with an ultrasonic range-finding system, its cameras create an obstacle-avoidance system that keeps it from running into things.
Gita has been planned to be primarily trialed in a business-to-business model. A consumer version is expected to follow after about a year. As Hoffman stated; “Piaggio has a huge history of selling directly to the consumer, so there’s definitely an end game of producing a product at a price point that’s manageable for the consumer.”
The official launch of Gita took place at an event in Boston on February, 2nd.