How many engineers does it take for a robot to sing?  |  lähde: Daniel Carrillo |  Starship Technologies  March 2022

How many engineers does it take for a robot to sing? | lähde: Daniel Carrillo | Starship Technologies March 2022

By March 2022, Starship Robots had played more than 108,000 songs in the past seven months, meaning our customers put about 500 songs in their cart every day when ordering from Starship. That is a great result, considering that it was not possible until recently. How did we achieve that?

People order songs, add them to the basket with milk and bread, as a regular food. After that, the items are collected and loaded into the Starship robot. When the robot reaches the customer and the customer opens the lid, the robot starts playing the selected song. What a nice and fun surprise! But it wasn’t always like that.

Seven months ago, all our robots said “Good afternoon!” or “Bon appetit!” and no one could have imagined robots playing more than 100,000 songs in the next half year!

Starship’s senior Backend Developer, Misha Stepanov, recalls that robots could only dance when he joined the company in the spring of 2021. “We were supported in this by a choreographer who helped us set up several robots to be synchronized. They danced wonderfully and it was fun to watch “, comments Misha and admits that it inspired him to come up with something new and unique.

For that, Misha started testing his ideas with Anti Veerann, Starship’s Senior Product Design Technologist who worked at the company from the very beginning. Thanks to that, Anti knows everything and everyone, participates in many endeavors and is happy to jump around all the crazy ideas.

How many engineers does it take for a robot to sing?  |  lähde: Daniel Carrillo |  Starship Technologies  March 2022

In the COVID pandemic, people were already getting used to self-isolation and work or learning from home. At the same time, this new situation also increased the level of stress, because many often felt quite lonely.

On the plus side, we’ve got feedback that Starship robots and deliveries tend to cheer people up in these tough times. The idea was appealing and inspiring – if something like that can brighten someone’s day, then it’s worth the effort and time to think about how to make it even better. As a result, Misha and Anti focused exclusively on bringing robot interaction to another level.

They wondered if it would be possible to get the Starship robot to play “Happy Birthday” when, for example, it’s the customer’s birthday. “We knew that if we could report and achieve this, then any other scenario would not be difficult. Therefore, we focused on its implementation “, explained Miša.

How many engineers does it take for a robot to sing?  |  lähde: Daniel Carrillo |  Starship Technologies  March 2022

Therefore, the first idea was to redesign the current Starship mobile application, so that in addition to ordering a grocery basket, you can also choose a song as a special accessory. However, creating this solution seemed to take too many hours of development, long releases, second team contributions, and coordination between different departments.

Anti then suggested what if the song could be added to the cart as a regular product, which means that no interface development is required, including additional programming or a long coordination process. Sounded perfect and much easier!

The only development effort seemed to be:

  • To add an additional item (song) to the menu, and;
  • Remove the song after ordering so as not to forward it to the restaurant, because the song cannot be cooked, and;
  • When the customer opens the robot cover, the system should check if a song has been ordered and if so, then it should release it.

By the way, it should be noted that the Starship robots already knew how to play mp3 files, because they could say “Good day!”, “Have a nice day!” And “Have a nice appetite!”. Therefore, from a technical point of view, it was not difficult to make the robots sing.

Misha and Anti realized that if their idea was technically feasible as it was, then their next goal was to convince others that this was exactly what Starship needed.

They were lucky to find the right people from the marketing department who were thrilled and fascinated by the idea. In terms of marketing, adding the song Starship to deliveries would also add a new unique sales offering to the service.

Therefore, the marketing team took over the complete organizational side of the process, which means that they bought songs from the song owners, talked to the menu department, introduced new virtual goods into our system, covered all contracts with partners and provided full marketing support.

The first three purchased songs that Starship robots could play were:

How many engineers does it take for a robot to sing?  |  lähde: Daniel Carrillo |  Starship Technologies  March 2022

Everything else went according to plan: PR, marketing messages, schedule for the first clients, setting up the first city (Milton Keynes), then the first countries (England), and then came the global introduction.

“Seeing this finally happen was amazing and a pleasure to witness for both,” Misha commented.

Today, customers can choose from 3-5 songs, which change frequently depending on the weather and location. Our service is constantly evolving.

So for a robot to sing, you just need one cool idea, two colleagues to think about for lunch, a couple of days to develop … and then the whole company to support it.

The result was warmly welcomed by everyone – the team, the company and most importantly – our Starship customers! 100,000+ orders only confirm this.

Bravo Miša and Anti!

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