Amazon and Postmates’ delivery robots heading to more sidewalks in the U.S.

As an online shopper, you probably couldn’t give two hoots how that emergency order of toilet paper arrives at your door. Whether it’s a drone, robot, or human, all you really care about is that it arrives before anything calamitous happens.

Nevertheless, a growing number of companies are working on ways to increase the efficiency of their delivery operations as online shopping continues to grow, with solutions likely to include autonomous technology such as the aforementioned drone and robot.

While drones clearly have the upper hand over wheel-based robots when it comes to speed, strict regulations mean a delivery service using self-piloting aircraft is still a ways off.

Regulations exist for the delivery robots, too, but are a little more relaxed, a situation that’s encouraging a growing number of companies to develop the technology.

In recent days, for example, Amazon and Postmates have each offered updates on their own robots as they attempt to incorporate them into their delivery operations.

Amazon’s Scout

Amazon is about to expand tests of its robot, called Scout, to the city of Irvine, just south of Los Angeles, California. It follows trial deliveries in a single neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington, earlier this year, when the company first announced Scout.

“While in the Pacific Northwest, Scout has experienced all of the region’s weather — from the expected rain shower to the infrequent sun, and even the biggest snowstorm the area [has] seen in the last decade,” Amazon’s Sean Scott wrote in a blog post. “It’s now time for Scout to experience a little more sunshine [and so] Scout will begin to deliver packages to customers in Southern California.”

Several Scouts, each equipped with sensors and cameras to ensure safe navigation, will make trial deliveries to Amazon customers in Irvine from Monday through Friday during daylight hours. You can see the robot in action in the video above. To ensure that testing goes smoothly, each Scout will be accompanied by a human “ambassador” to ensure everything runs smoothly, though of course at some point the aim is to send the robot out alone.

Postmates’ Serve

On-demand delivery startup Postmates unveiled a similar kind of robot, called Serve, at the end of last year, and recently it received conditional approval from San Francisco officials to start trials in public spaces, according to TechCrunch.

Serve has both a ring of flashing light on its top and large “eyes” that move around to signal its movement intentions to people close by. It’s also monitored remotely by a human operator when it’s out on the street, and includes a “help” button that passers-by can press to speak to the operator in case of a problem.

As with Scout, Postmates’ robot will also have someone walking close by during the trial phase to monitor its movements and assist with any issues.

For many observers, the true test with these robots will come when they’re sent out alone. How, for example, will it deal with vandals and thieves, or some mischief-maker who wants to see what happens when you throw a blanket over it? Some of us, after all, remember what happened to poor ol’ HitchBot.

Emerging Tech

Astro the dog-inspired quadruped robot can sit, lie down, and… learn?

Move over Spot! Researchers from Florida Atlantic University have built a new dog robot called Astro. Thanks to deep learning technology, it promises to be able to learn just like a real dog.
Health & Fitness

We spit in a ton of test tubes to find the best and most unique DNA tests

DNA tests aren’t just limited to ancestry. You can test for your risks for certain diseases, the best workouts and diets for your health and fitness, and more.
Emerging Tech

Artificial tree promises to suck up as much air pollution as a small forest

Startup Biomitech has developed an artificial tree that it claims is capable of sucking up as much air pollution as 368 real trees. It could be a game-changer for cities with limited free space.
Emerging Tech

Mars 2020 rover now has a rotating array of drill bits for sampling Martian rock

Most the key components in the Mars 2020 rover are installed and ready to go. The next phase of construction was to install the bit carousel, an important mechanism for the gathering and sorting of samples from the Martian surface.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects landing site candidates for OSIRIS-Rex to sample asteroid Bennu

Last year, the OSIRIS-REx craft arrived at asteroid Bennu, from which it will collect a sample from the asteroid to be brought back to Earth. Now, the NASA team has selected four potential sites to choose from for the sampling mission.
Emerging Tech

NASA wants to send two more missions to Mars to collect rock samples

With its Mars 2020 mission, NASA hopes to collect samples from the surface of the planet. The challenge is how to get those samples back to Earth. Now, NASA has revealed its plans for two followup missions to Mars.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Racing drones and robotic ping pong trainers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Eric Geusz: Apple engineer by day, spaceship designer by night

An Apple software engineer by day, artist Eric Geusz spends his nights drawing everyday household objects as amazing, science fiction-style spaceships. Check out the impressive results.
Emerging Tech

The black hole at the center of our galaxy is flaring and no one knows why

At the heart of our galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. Normally this giant monster is relatively docile, but recently it's been a hotbed of unexpected activity, rapidly glowing 75 times brighter than normal.
Emerging Tech

SpaceIL’s crashed lander may have sent thousands of tardigrades to the moon

When the SpaceIL craft Beresheet crashed into the moon earlier this year, it left more than just an impact mark. Thousands of micro-animals called tardigrades were along for the ride and may have survived the crash.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s satellite projects will study the sun using solar sailing

Small satellites can be used for all sorts of purposes, and NASA has been searching for ideas to push ahead the capabilities of the hardware. The agency has announced two new projects to demonstrate the potential of small satellites.
Emerging Tech

Hubble captures a beautiful cosmic jellyfish made of glowing gas

A new image from Hubble might look like a deep-space jellyfish, but it's not a sign of extraterrestrial life - in fact, it's a planetary nebula called NGC 2022, located in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter).
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe makes a second orbit of the sun, captures solar wind on video

The Parker Solar Probe, launched last year, has completed its second orbit around the sun. To celebrate, the team responsible for the probe has released a video showing solar winds in action.

Starman on Tesla Roadster makes first orbit around sun, braces for loneliness

Starman and his Tesla Roadster, sent by SpaceX to outer space last year, have completed their first orbit around the sun. The people on Earth may be able to catch a glimpse of the cherry-red electric vehicle on November 2020.