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Starship Technologies Collaborates for Accessible AI Delivery Robots

Starship Technologies Collaborates with Disabled Community for Accessible AI Delivery Robots
2023 07 22 startech 01 https://www.bbc.com/news/disability-65719649

Starship Technologies, the innovators behind AI robots facilitating urban deliveries, are actively engaging with the disabled community to ensure safety and accessibility. These knee-high robots, designed for pavement use, employ obstacle avoidance technology, including sensors and cameras, to navigate public spaces cautiously. The company’s commitment to ongoing dialogue with disabled individuals aims to enhance the robots’ ability to recognize and accommodate various mobility devices.

One crucial scenario the company has focused on is encounters with wheelchair users on narrow paths. Learning from past incidents, Starship Technologies aims to improve the robots’ capability to recognize and adjust their path when encountering individuals using wheelchairs. In response to an incident in 2019 where a robot blocked the only accessible entrance to a sidewalk, the company has invested time in teaching the robots to understand mobility devices.

While the robots can currently identify most mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, they struggle to recognize white canes used by the blind and visually impaired. Lisa Johnson, head of public affairs at Starship Technologies, emphasizes the importance of continuous interaction with the disabled community to refine the robots’ capabilities. The goal is for the robots to detect a white cane and audibly introduce themselves to the individual.

Starship Technologies has established a Disability Advisory Panel, including individuals like Steve Tyler, director of assistive technology at the charity Leonard Cheshire, who is blind. The company recognizes the need for input from the disabled community to drive improvements and ensure the technology’s inclusivity.

In addition to safety measures, Starship Technologies is exploring ways to improve the overall user experience, addressing concerns raised by the disabled community. Suggestions include providing signals to alert users of the robot’s presence before they open the lid to retrieve their items.

As the technology advances, stakeholders stress the importance of involving the disabled community in shaping the conversation around AI innovations. Starship Technologies acknowledges the potential impact on urban development and public spaces, emphasizing the need for inclusivity and collaboration in the rapidly evolving landscape of AI-powered delivery systems.

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