Alibaba debuts new delivery robots

Alibaba has unveiled its autonomous logistics robot for last-mile deliveries.

Developed by the Alibaba DAMO Academy, the global research initiative by Alibaba Group, the delivery robot can carry 50 packages at one time and cover 62 miles on a single charge. It is estimated the mobile robot should be able to deliver as many as 500 packages a day to one designated community or campus.

“We are expecting a rapid spike of delivery demands brought by the thriving new retail and local services businesses in the increasingly digitalised world" said Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence. “To meet the strong delivery demand for our internal business growth and for the larger society, we have been investing in smart logistics, including logistics robots, for years."

The robot can schedule its route in a crowded environment, and with high-definition positioning technology, it can also operate where there’s weak or no GPS signal. With 3D Point Cloud Semantic Segmentation (PCSS) technology and deep learning, the robot can also identify obstacles and predict the intended movement of passengers and vehicles a few seconds ahead of time to enhance safety.

Chinese consumers can use either the Cainiao or Taobao mobile apps to select a preferred timeslot during the day for delivery. The robot then arrives at the designated destination, where users retrieve their packages by entering a passcode they receive in the app.

Meanwhile, Alibaba Cloud introduced its first cloud computer, a palm-sized device which gives high-performance computing thanks to robust back-end cloud resources. By connecting the cloud computer with a normal screen, users can access almost unlimited computing resources anytime, anywhere, paying on a subscription model or for the actual cloud consumption.

“We hope our cloud computer can help people access resilient computing power whenever they need to, so they can conduct complex tasks which usually require sophisticated and powerful PCs, such as video editing, animation rendering, software development, and online customer services, with a tiny personal computer at hand now,” said Zhang. “As working from home becomes the new normal during and after the pandemic, we believe our innovation can also help users more easily enjoy the benefits of cloud computing anytime, anywhere, in a cost-effective yet secure way.”

The cloud computer claims to reduce the rendering time of one frame high-resolution animation from 90 minutes using a traditional PC, down to only 10 minutes. In addition, its system upgrades are conducted online, saving much of the normally heavy cost of PC machine upgrades and maintenance in traditional office settings.

Available initially for enterprise customers, the cloud computers will be also available for purchase by individual consumers in the near future.

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