Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut unveiled its AI-equipped robot porter, ‘Space Egg’

Alibaba is probably not the most sought out website in the US, but it is still one of China’s largest e-commerce firms, with online sales in 2015 being larger than the combined sales of Walmart, Amazon and eBay! The company has now started getting more involved in commercial robotics and recently launched the Space Egg: a robot porter designed to ferry items around hotels!

The robot was revealed at a computing conference in Hangzhou, China and will feature in its first hotel in the city next month! While we have seen many robo-porters in the past years, such as Botlr, a “robot butler” by Savioke for hotels; HOSPI, made by Panasonic to ferry medical supplies around hospitals and LG’s CLOj range, with bots designed to serve drinks; the one by Alibaba certainly takes the cake for its efficiency and functional abilities.

The 3 feet high robot server has a curved aluminum casing that covers its set of wheels and uses various cameras and sensors to navigate the passageways. However, it is quite slow, rolling around at a speed of one meter per second. Nevertheless, the bot comes with an inbuilt customized AI assistant dubbed Tmall Genie, which provides features similar to Alexa in Alibaba’s own smart speakers. The Genie can be summoned on voice command and take down orders, which are delivered to the guests via Space Egg. This puts the guests at ease and reduces hotel costs for hiring extra staff!

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Alibaba Robot Porter

Image Credit: Alibaba AI Labs

With Alibaba having a strong knack for robotics and workers with strong robotics backgrounds, the company’s entry into the robot porter market can mark as a setback for all its rivals and create a higher benchmark for competition. However, the Space Egg is just the start. In a statement, a representative from Alibaba stated that the company is working on future variations, which include a Space Shuttle that could be used to deliver medicines in hospitals. They are also trying to find methods to make their robots blend into new environments, particularly eateries and offices.

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In a press statement, Lijuan Chen of Alibaba AI Labs, the group that made the Space Egg, said the robot would “bridge the gap between guest needs and the response time that they expect. The robot will be the ultimate assistant for hotel guests who want everything quickly and conveniently at their fingertips.”

However, it is still unsure whether this robot will cut costs for hotels or not. It is an exciting prospect, nonetheless.

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h/t: The Verge

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