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Robotics Beer Businesses

What Happens When Robots Can Deliver Your Groceries? (venturebeat.com) 136

"What if you could get groceries in less than two minutes without even leaving your apartment?" asks VentureBeat. "Another beer...? Think guacamole would go extremely well with those Doritos you just opened?" Several grocery-delivery startups are already working to make this a reality. Slashdot reader moglito summarizes their vision of autonomous indoor-delivery robots from automated refrigerators servicing high-rise apartment buildings. Coupled with AI algorithms for learning what residents like to consume, and algorithms for automatically restocking those items via a network of suppliers or logistics companies, this "bot-mart" could make grocery shopping a boring and time-consuming thing of the past... Will robots similarly reduce the need for a kitchen next?
Yes, the article also describes cooking robots (which can already prepare burgers, pizza, and sandwiches), as well as new automated delivery vehicles restaurants. "Perhaps the only question remaining is whether there is a business case for this," they point out -- though under some scenarios, it could actually prove cheaper than driving to the grocery store yourself. "Consumers will find it ever easier to get what they want, when they want it, where they want it."
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What Happens When Robots Can Deliver Your Groceries?

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  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday March 05, 2017 @05:48PM (#53981781)

    age checking? or will this just not have 18+ or 21+ stuff to buy?

  • Outside weather damage? or will they just bill the renter like the rent a car places do?

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Outside weather damage? or will they just bill the renter like the rent a car places do?

      The car rental shop holding you responsible for weather/vandalism is your failure to take out the proper insurance policy with them when you rented.
      If you have a comprehensive insurance policy of your own on a vehicle, you may be covered on the rental, too. This would mean making a claim for the damage to the rental car and getting a hit on your insurance rates, of course.

      I commute to work and have to park outdoors. There was a time a large hailstorm was supposed to hit us in the middle of my work day. I le

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then again, if you don't live in a large city, odds of surviving when it all turns to shit are better

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      But until this crashes and burns (likely literally), small towns, rural areas etc. are going to have a problem with stores closing due to lack of revenue, much akin to book stores, game stores and other kinds of stores that can't really compete in a brick&mortar vs. internet fight.

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

      IF you live in a large city it might work

      I doubt it. The automated checkout systems I have seen are a complete disaster and that's a much simpler use case
      There is a full time person there to consult when the purchase gets stuck (CVS). It gets stuck a lot.
      It is easily confused and misses you putting items in a bag after scan -- and I tried using it with 3-4 item purchase at most.
      They have completely removed the cash option in my nearby CVS (I assume it wasn't working well, other places have cash option)

      Are delivery people/cashiers so expensive?

  • Right now, when I go to the grocery store I bear the cost and risk of travelling. But if the grocery store or more likely a grocery warehouse is sending out autonomous vehicles they have to bear the risk or insure it away. It would involve more people and a lot more traffic on roads.

    I have trouble seeing this working in many of the already crowded streets.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Right now I am planing to go to the grocery store. Why a plan, because it is 2 km and that 4 km walk takes quite some time, fortunately it is downhill all the way to the grocery store, unfortunately it is uphill all the way back from the grocery store. Apparently if you do not work for your food, it will gather around your body as fat.

      This is part of the laziness diets, using laziness to moderate food intake. The battle between walking 4km for junk and carrying it back or being lazy and simply not and allo

      • Why a plan, because it is 2 km and that 4 km walk takes quite some time, fortunately it is downhill all the way to the grocery store, unfortunately it is uphill all the way back from the grocery store.

        You kids, today. Back in my day, it was uphill both ways!

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          I gather you miss the whole logical yet humorous idea of getting two vices to combat each other, the vice of laziness and the vice of gluttony. Although the view is also nice, downhill more than uphill https://www.google.com.au/maps... [google.com.au] (nominal starting point). Still not enjoying the hotdogs (neither the vienna sausages nor roll nor slaw made from scratch ain't that fanatical, the yoghurt for desert is low sugar http://margaretriverdairy.com.... [margaretri...iry.com.au]) as tiredness has combined with laziness to temporarily still

          • No, I get it. I'm referring more to the bit where old people complain that kids today are soft. "You have school busses? Back in my day we had to walk to school!" It usually adds the "Up hill! Both ways!" which is, obviously, completely ridiculous.

            Too get a better idea, check out Monty Python's "Four Yorkshireman" skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • When our chain did this, we lived in Miami - they dispatched a medium sized truck from a warehouse sometimes 50 miles away, sometimes 200 miles away, depended on what was where when... but, that truck made over a dozen deliveries, kept those people's cars off the road, out of the store parking lot, out of the checkout lines, and also reduced the big trucks going to the local stores. If the program really took hold, it could have reduced the number of stores too.

      Net - I think the direct home delivery reduce

      • Current grocery delivery reduces traffic, because everybody orders a day ahead of time. If everybody's expecting a delivery 30 minutes after they order, then it will increase traffic.

        • Well, TFA is talking about 30 minute delivery from within a high density residential building, like a high rise apartment. Zero road traffic in that scenario.

          One of my neighborhoods had an old gas station at the entrance, a small catering business took it over and did drive-through prepared meals, with lots of sales into the neighborhood. Their customers would stop off, literally 100 feet out of their way on the way home, and pick up fresh dinners ready to heat and eat just two minutes from their house.

    • It would involve more people and a lot more traffic on roads.

      I figure it would be the other way around. At the moment, grocery stores (from chatting to the driver) seem to send out vehicles on round trips, so one small van will deliver to a number of houses. If one vehicle+driver delivers to 5-10 houses, that's going to involve a lot less traffic than 5-10 people independently driving to a shop.

  • Delivering pre-packaged cans, bottles, and jars may indeed make sense, at some point - but I'd be leery about someone else picking my produce, eggs, perhaps even potato chips - unless there's a generous return policy.

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Delivering pre-packaged cans, bottles, and jars may indeed make sense, at some point - but I'd be leery about someone else picking my produce, eggs, perhaps even potato chips - unless there's a generous return policy.

      Why do people here talk as if grocery delivery services don't already exist? I've been getting my groceries delivered for over 2 years now (and I wasn't an early-adopter), and in the rare case that I receive something damaged or otherwise unusable, I report it and they refund me, no questions asked.

      And it's not like I'm a perfect grocery delivery person -- I've picked product that I later found to have a bad spot, I've dropped groceries on my way into the house, etc.

      • Home delivery has existed for years. Tried it once and it failed - robots instead of vans would make no difference.

        1) They send you the least fresh stock they have. Maybe doesn't matter if you only eat canned beans.

        2) If you choose something advertised at reduced price, they charge you full price "because the reduced price stock ran out".

        3) Half the time they send you an alternative "because what you ordered ran out". Once I got six (!) cabbages instead of 1kg carrots.

        Maybe you "have a right to complain", b

    • by erice ( 13380 )

      Delivering pre-packaged cans, bottles, and jars may indeed make sense, at some point - but I'd be leery about someone else picking my produce, eggs, perhaps even potato chips - unless there's a generous return policy.

      Not just fragile, also variable. Is the avocado at the right left of ripeness for my use? Some like their bananas green. Some like them ripe. Maybe none of the bananas are to my liking but the peaches look good. The chicken breasts are priced well but there is too much fat for what I need them for. Maybe I will use fish instead.

      I don't see how robotic or even human in the loop online grocery shopping can get consistently good results.

      • How about cameras at the store? with tactile feedback gloves if you really want to squeeze those melons.

        • I think you would find that it'd take you 10x longer to go through all the VR interfaces for each item than it'd take you to shop at the store. One of the reasons I don't get my groceries delivered often (even though Safeway keeps offering me free delivery + free item bribes to try to get me to) is that it actually takes me a lot longer to browse through their clunky interface than it does for me to cover every aisle in the store on foot. As far as I can see, delivery is only really useful for people who wa

    • I actually think the opposite would be better being able to order small quantities of perishable items such as fruit and vegetables would save a lot of waste. Cans, bottles etc, I can buy in bulk once a week without worrying about waste.

    • During the Publix pilot program, the produce they shipped was only the best stuff. You could choose how green you wanted your bananas. Remember, the produce is coming direct from the warehouse to your kitchen, it doesn't have to sit in the retail bins being fondled by everyone and sprayed every 5 minutes to stay looking fresh. If you want really ripe watermelon, or something like that, it might be a problem, but mostly, the warehouse doesn't ship bad stuff to the store - the stuff goes bad while on the s

      • During the Publix pilot program, the produce they shipped was only the best stuff.

        Of course - for a pilot program.

        Remember, the produce is coming direct from the warehouse to your kitchen, it doesn't have to sit in the retail bins being fondled by everyone and sprayed every 5 minutes to stay looking fresh.... mostly, the warehouse doesn't ship bad stuff to the store - the stuff goes bad while on the store shelves.

        But if this idea takes off, the grocery store will send stuff back to the warehouse when it is getting close to its expiry date, and then the warehouse will send it out to people who have remote-ordered a delivery. That's because on a shop shelf people tend to avoid the stuff close to its date and the shop finds it difficult to shift it. Dumping it on remote customers (instead of trashing a lot of it as now) will be a God-send to the grocery compnaies.

    • but I'd be leery about someone else picking my produce, eggs,

      OK firstly, grocery delivery including fresh goods has been a thing for over 20 years. It isn't new and supermarkets have figured it out.

      But backing up, what do you think happens at every stage along the way? All of that stuff has already been sorted by hand. Those nice-looking veg in the tray at the supermarket are not how they come out of the ground on the whole, they're all hand selected for various things, including looks.

      Anyway, supermarkets

  • steal the groceries, robot and all
    • Stuff the food.. Free Robot!
      Steal enough of them and build yourself an army of evil(They are stolen after all) robot minions to do your bidding and take control! *MWAhahaha!*

      • .. if your plan for taking control involves using your evil robot minions to deliver groceries to people, sure, that'd work.
      • Stuff the food.. Free Robot!
        Steal enough of them and build yourself an army

        Be prepared for a fight. These robots may be built like the Terminator.

  • Consumers will find it ever easier to get what they want, when they want it, where they want it

    But none of them have any money or jobs to afford them. Using the free time they have they will be hunting and gathering food.

    • Using the free time they have they will be hunting and gathering food.

      ...probably from robots that are delivering it to someone else.

  • The way that I read the article (sorry for not following /. tradition) is that you have a central grocery distribution point within the apartment building, condo complex or similar, and in those situations it could work, and becomes more viable the larger the apartment building/complex. For small apartment buildings, or for people who live in houses, it would almost certainly not be viable or workable.
    Doing it the "other way" - you order online via and the groceries are shipped from a warehouse using some

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      It's the arcology of SimCity 2000 come to life. Get everything you need without ever leaving the building. And it will work for buildings with enough people, though it seems to me it would make more sense to test it out in hotels first. Higher population density, they often have kitchens for room service already, and if people aren't pleased with the service they'll be gone in a fairly short period of time.

      For smaller buildings (or less dense ones), perhaps the robots will only be around once or twice a wee

  • I hope these things will be able to refrigerate in hot places and heat in cold places. Different compartments for frozen food / chilled food / normal food / heated food. They're going to have to have monster power packs.
    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      Fortunately, Dewar flasks and Thermos bottles weigh very little because they're empty space inside, and also can be left unattended without power for considerable periods of time. The trucks used to shuttle the goods from the warehouse or store to the building being served may be reefers and warmers, but the robots don't need to be. They just won't be in control of the food long enough for a lightweight, insulated package to fail.

      As for efficiency of scale, there are two answers to low density: charge a lot

  • Less traffic, less congestion, no wasting time on shopping, personal buttler service for the 99% that will save us a portion of our lives in more ways than one. How many accidents happen on the roads just because of shopping?

  • Eventually food, and all goods, will go from source to consumer in a fully automated fashion. The question then becomes one of timelines and intermediary steps. Does the mentioned scenario sound like one that fits into that interim? Sure.
    • There's a farm in Florida that ships live greens to restaurants for salads, they're quite good when they're taken from the field within 24 hours of being served, and not even severed from their roots until minutes before you eat them. Similar things have been done with lobster for years.

  • I love the fact that robots can deliver groceries and cook my food but there is one additional task they could offload from me. You see, I have a toothache and it hurts to chew my food. If the robots could chew my food for me and just regurgitate it into my mouth without me having to get out of my recliner then I'd be all set. Well, except for emptying my catheter and colostomy bag and changing the batteries in the remote every few months.
    • So much food today is already pre-chewed, think about oatmeal, cereals, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, ground beef, it just goes on and on. My wife worries about our cat choking on our food - I remind her that our cat eats uncooked squirrels, nothing on our plates is nearly as challenging to chew as an uncooked squirrel.

      • ...nothing on our plates is nearly as challenging to chew as an uncooked squirrel.

        You should suggest to your wife that she take a look at your cat's teeth. They don't have molars, so they're not chewing anything, be it human food, uncooked squirrel, or kibble. It all goes down the same way, basically in bite-sized hunks. (Though I did have one cat years ago who would crunch up the kibble a bit before swallowing it. Greedy sod always took too big a mouthful.)

  • What happens? I get a free robot!
  • Well there goes my primary use case for owning a car. Boom. Gone. Uber to get to and from public transit, robots to deliver my groceries, humans to deliver whatever it is that Amazon sells that isn't groceries. You never realized until you give up shopping in stores, how much time you spend driving to/from the store, waiting in line, being sneezed on by other people's kids, packing and unpacking the car. Sweet jesus, shopping from online places like Amazon, Walmart, Target.com etc you save 3-5 hours a week.

    • It's nice to earn income without having to be physically present at any particular place - still hard to find good paying reliable work like that, but it's nice when you can get it.

    • by Leuf ( 918654 )
      I imagine that once self-driving cars become the norm you'll be able to have your car drop you off at work and then you can rent out your car to do things like pick up other people's groceries and other goods, or to drive other people around. My local grocery store chain is rolling out an online ordering system with its own parking spots and you just walk in and pick up your order. It's not a big leap from there to having your car go there to a special drive thru to pick them up without you. I can also s
  • Just a few more pieces of automation and we can have farm field to home delivery fully automated. At that point, only processed foods and meat should cost money (or if you exceed a certain quantity).

  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Sunday March 05, 2017 @07:21PM (#53982153)

    Basically this: Robots start delivering peoples' groceries.

    • Expectation:
      Robots start delivering peoples' groceries.
      Reality:
      Poorly Designed Smart Electric Shopping Carts on sell
      (may contain Plain Text Password Security)

    • I break all the eggs and blame the robot so they get fired... :)

      Seriously though, I would not buy food online. Food is one of those things that is always better seen and checked first hand before buying. Depending on what foods look like (freshness/color) I change my recipe planning on the fly. Long ago I went to culinary school for 3 years and I love to cook. I'm very picky about what I cook and eat.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Seriously though, I would not buy food online. Food is one of those things that is always better seen and checked first hand before buying. Depending on what foods look like (freshness/color) I change my recipe planning on the fly. Long ago I went to culinary school for 3 years and I love to cook. I'm very picky about what I cook and eat.

        I think we'll see a split. Those too lazy to walk out the door and show for groceries will probably have their food delivered. Considering you can get a lot of it (nonperis

  • For one thing ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday March 05, 2017 @07:28PM (#53982193)

    ... it would take all the fun out of answering the doorbell for the delivery person naked.

  • getting fruits, veggies or meat products that way without visually inspecting first may not be such a great thing.
    Peaches stone-hard, bananas green, lettuce tiny etc.

    • The logical conclusion? http://archive.ncsa.illinois.e... [illinois.edu] "Of course," said a famous lecturer - he of the French Revolution, who gilded each new decay with splendour - "of course we shall not press our complaints now. The Mending Apparatus has treated us so well in the past that we all sympathize with it, and will wait patiently for its recovery. In its own good time it will resume its duties. Meanwhile let us do without our beds, our tabloids, our other little wants. Such, I feel sure, would be the wish of

  • "Consumers will find it ever easier to get what they want, when they want it, where they want it.".... At an exhorbitent price. You'll pay for that convenience until it becomes widespread and starts to displace the traditional grocery store.

  • but most of the United States is too spread out to make this sorta thing economical.
    • And that's why grocery delivery companies have the lifespan of a mayfly. It's been tried many, many times - and only works in wealthy high-density city centers.

      It's basically the same model as the bicycle courier. You can probably count on one hand the number of places where that exists in the US.

      The key to making this work is dropping the cost a *lot* (like less than a tenth of current costs), and some consistently good customer service in picking the food to deliver.

  • What happens if robots do shopping for you? You get even more fat, awaiting the next step, when another robot will spare you the walk to the kitchen to grab food.
  • Let's make America Fat Again!
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday March 05, 2017 @10:49PM (#53982883)

    I use going shopping as a major part of my exercise. I usually do not go to the nearest shop either, a nice 20 minute walk each way 4 times a week or so is entirely fine. (Yes, I know that is at the low end, but far better than nothing.) The second thing is that for vegetables, fruit and meat, I like to look at what is available and not just from some pretty pictures, but the actual product.

  • Let's just cut straight to centralized municipal food paste delivery through pipes in your house and be done with it.
  • Is often harder and more trouble than just being there and shopping.

    There is literally too much in the way of choice, and selecting what you want even without decision paralysis can and will take more time than just zipping through a store.

    Not saying it can't work but it needs some real improvements. Who knows maybe the old Idea of 3d virtual stores will make a comeback.

  • I don't want someone else picking out my groceries for me (especially produce, meat, cheese, and bulk food items), and I don't want a robot delivering them either.
  • I just tip the delivery guy but I won't tip the robot.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I don't tip the delivery guy, but then I live in a country where tipping is not done.

      Regardless, the delivery driver will be without a job and the store can pocket a bit more. I am guessing we will start to see more and more people that are unemployed.

  • Does anyone remember Webvan ?

    Or I am the oldest /. reader ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • B double E double R U N, BEER RUN! I shouldn't have given that away now I won't be able to capitalize on it, dammit.
  • As a side bonus if there is an earthquake/hurricane/other then there is a week or so of calories stored near the apartment complex. Albeit mostly in Doritos. But still - this is a big bonus.

  • This is a fun idea, but its harder than it sounds.
    Pay attention next time you're in a grocery store. Damn near everything is different shapes and sizes. Sure, canned goods have *some* standardization, but there are no less than 3 styles of cans, (nesting, non nesting, and pull top) in a dozen or more sizes. And that's just canned goods, don't even think about things like sugar and flour, which come in fucking paper bags that can be punctured by a fingertip, let alone a robot arm. There are dozens of style

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