Tarik Abdullah, chef and owner of community kitchen Feed The People, is followed in Seattle by his Gita robot. (Piaggio Fast Forward Photo)
Watch your back, Seattle. The robots are hoping to follow you.
Boston-based Piaggio Fast Forward is targeting the Evergreen City as a particularly walkable and tech-savvy place where they hope residents will take to a rolling robot named Gita that’s kind of a like a shadow that carries your stuff. But at $3,250, the price alone could be a heavy lift.
The Gita (pronounced jee-ta) is a sleek, two-wheeled device launched to the consumer market in November 2019. It’s designed to pair with and follow a specific user without the aid of a remote control or GPS. The battery powered unit can run for about four hours, travel at 6 mph and carry 40 pounds of groceries or whatever else can be packed into its top-loading cargo hold.
We first spotted Gita in a direct mailer that was sent to a GeekWire source, and a Piaggio Fast Forward representative told us Monday why they’re targeting the city’s walkers as potential robot leaders.
“We want to find people who share our belief and embrace the vision of a pedestrian ecology,” said Lisa Lewis, chief marketing officer at Piaggio Fast Forward. “Seattle embraces this lifestyle and the next generation of urban living by finding ways for people to live, work, and play without depending on driving.”
Kirsty Papadopulos, owner of Queen Anne Frame, with her Gita in the neighborhood’s Kerry Park. (Piaggio Fast Forward Photo)
Lewis added that Seattle’s tech scene is driving job growth and that the love of the outdoors means “the streets are active.” She also noted the rapid development of dense, mixed-use housing as the population has boomed over the past decade.
Piaggio Fast Forward was founded in 2015 by the Piaggio Group, the Italian manufacturer of the iconic Vespa scooter. PFF’s mission is “to build technology products that move the way people move.” PFF recently opened a 10,000-square-foot assembly and production space in Boston.
In Seattle, PFF has identified what Lewis calls “Pedestrian Pioneers” whose major life decisions on where to live and work are based on their desire for walkable, urban places. Videos on YouTube profile two such pioneers: Tarik Abdullah, chef and owner of community kitchen Feed The People; and Kirsty Papadopulos, owner of Queen Anne Frame.
Both videos show the Gita users being followed by the robots as they make their way down sidewalks and across city streets.
“I had a few memories of George Jetson with his briefcase and I’m like, ‘This is a cross between his suitcase and R2-D2!’” Abdullah said in a PFF blog post about what his first reaction was to Gita.
“I love living in a walkable neighborhood but truthfully I hate carrying around heavy bags so I often drive to work or the grocery store,” Papadopulos said about why she was interested in the device.
PFF says Gita robots have been purchased in about half the states in the U.S., with a focus on the Southern belt where outdoor weather is more friendly year round. Tech hubs like Seattle and Austin and other places that embrace “modern urbanism aesthetics” are the focus of PFF’s marketing outreach.
The robot is designed with “pedestrian etiquette in mind” and built to move the way people move, according to the company. But PFF still advises customers to follow any local guidance and yield to pedestrians and traffic while using Gita.
As it targets consumers, PFF has also been taking on enterprise partners across select industries to showcase Gita’s capabilities in travel, hospitality, real estate, retail, local food delivery and more. As a B2B buddy, Gita starts to look a lot like Scout, the package delivery robot being tested by Amazon.
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