Meet the tiny startup that helped build Amazon’s Scout robot

TechCrunch | 11/22/2017 | Staff
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When Amazon unveiled a six-wheeled urban delivery robot called Scout a couple of weeks ago, its website was pretty definitive about who was behind it.

“These devices were created by Amazon,” the page reads. “We developed Amazon Scout at our research and development lab in Seattle.”

Part - Story - TechCrunch - Property - Technology

But that is only part of the story, TechCrunch has discovered. Some of the intellectual property and technology behind Scout likely came from farther afield – a small San Francisco startup called Dispatch that Amazon stealthily acquired in 2017.

Although the Dispatch.AI website is still active, and press reports have even called its robot a rival to Scout, the talent behind Dispatch has actually been working for Amazon for well over a year.

Starship - Technologies - Prototype - Delivery - Robot

Back in 2014, Estonian start-up Starship Technologies revealed a prototype urban delivery robot. It caught the attention of three young engineers who were working together at a New York real estate visualization company. Stav Braun was a computer vision expert, Uriah Baalke an alumnus of legendary robotics lab Willow Garage, and Sonia Jin a computer scientist from MIT.

The trio realized that they had all the necessary skills to build a U.S. rival to Starship. In the spring of 2015, they incorporated Dispatch Inc., in the Californian seaside town of Marina.

Months - Company - South - San - Francisco

Within six months, they had moved the company to South San Francisco and, with the help of mechatronics engineer Buddy Gardineer, built an electric semi-autonomous robot called Carry that could transport up to 100 pounds. Dispatch launched pilot programs on two college campuses in California — ideal environments to perfect their robot without having to navigate public rules and regulations.

Steven Weiner, president of Menlo College, told TechCrunch its pilot was “both utilitarian as well as engaging. The devices had something of a following on our campus — literally and otherwise.”

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With successful tests behind it, the company...
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