Small automatic food or shopping delivery vehicles

What do the above three animals have in common? Yes, they all have four legs. Don’t worry though, this Blog post is not dedicated to the natural world. Beyond their quadrupedal properties, badgers, tortoises and dogs all feature in some of the most interesting innovations currently underway within the world of robotics. Put simply, the robots are coming. Use cases are growing (along with anthropomorphic branding, it seems). Automation should be all about improving the efficiency of outcomes.

Begin with the badger. Your author visited some friends in Milton Keynes, a town 80km from London, last weekend. More than just the social aspect, it was an opportunity to see a Starship autonomous robot at work. Billed as a “grocery badger” – see the photo – these self-driving robots can be found in over 20 US locations as well as in Milton Keynes (and in Germany and Estonia too). The robots are advanced autonomous devices that can carry items over short distances, say from a grocery store to a household. Why take a short walk or drive, if a robot can bring the crisps and drinks that we needed? Customers use a simple app to place orders. We waited less than 20 minutes and could observe our designated robot from a distance, arriving at pedestrian speed and avoiding obstacles. The goods are accessed via tapping a code (sent to your phone) into the badger’s back. The process is simple and timesaving. Expect more deployments.

Self-driving robots with its owner

Rather than having goods come to your door, the thinking behind Silicon Valley start-up Tortoise is to create a mobile robotic vending machine. The thinking – apart from the novelty of experience (as with the badger) – is to generate incremental revenues for retailers without having humans oversee transactions. Tortoise has gone live with services this month in selected US and European locations (but not in the UK, sadly) and has partnered with over a dozen retailers. Fancy an impulse bar of chocolate? Well, simply encounter a Tortoise robot, tap with your credit card and access the box on its back containing the said bar. The added benefit is that there is (currently) no need to pre-register, download an app or scan a QR code. Based on one article we read on the topic, hourly sales from a Tortoise can be as high as $100, over 25 times that of a conventional vending machine.

And, finally, onto dogs. We made the case last year for the long-tail (no pun intended) opportunity within the pet economy. Growing companionship needs and increased premiumisation are driving dog demand and more. If a real-world pooch isn’t your thing, we have been reading about the growth of robotic dogs, particularly in China. AlphaDog is a high-tech hound that benefits from the use of machine learning tools and artificial intelligence to sense its localised environment. The ‘dog’ is able to move at a speed of up to 15km/hour and can apparently replicate many of the movements of its real-world counterpart.  We won’t be abandoning our puppy just yet, but AlphaDog does provide one indication of what the future may hold.

24 March 2022​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ 

Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

Photos taken by the author.

Disclaimers

The document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute investment advice or any recommendation to buy, or sell or otherwise transact in any investments. The document is not intended to be construed as investment research. The contents of this document are based upon sources of information which Heptagon Capital LLP believes to be reliable. However, except to the extent required by applicable law or regulations, no guarantee, warranty or representation (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this document or its contents and, Heptagon Capital LLP, its affiliate companies and its members, officers, employees, agents and advisors do not accept any liability or responsibility in respect of the information or any views expressed herein. Opinions expressed whether in general or in both on the performance of individual investments and in a wider economic context represent the views of the contributor at the time of preparation. Where this document provides forward-looking statements which are based on relevant reports, current opinions, expectations and projections, actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. All opinions and estimates included in the document are subject to change without notice and Heptagon Capital LLP is under no obligation to update or revise information contained in the document. Furthermore, Heptagon Capital LLP disclaims any liability for any loss, damage, costs or expenses (including direct, indirect, special and consequential) howsoever arising which any person may suffer or incur as a result of viewing or utilising any information included in this document. 

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