DEUS EX MACHINA
First-of-its-kind following robot rolls into Austin market
Fans of Star Wars have lamented for years that we don’t live in a time in which R2-D2 could follow us around, beeping cheerily, helping with chores, and generally aiding us in saving the galaxy. But one tech company’s robot, now available in Austin, might help us fight off the dark side — or at least help carry the groceries.
Gita, a first-of-its-kind following robot that uses smart tech to trail behind users, is rolling out in Austin, with creators saying Gita can empower “pedestrian pioneers,” particularly those living in more congested urban areas.
The robots do harbor a striking resemblance to any number of Star Wars droids, and the company welcomes the comparison, noting in a May 4 Instagram post that R2-D2 and Gita share many similarities, among them the ability to travel off the map; that they both communicate through lights, beeps, and boops; they’re both loyal and devoted to their users; and both develop a unique personality over time.
Gita (pronounced “jee-ta,” Italian for “short trip”) is produced by Piaggio Fast Forward, the Boston-based company founded in 2015 by Piaggio Group, the Italian creator of the Vespa scooter, so there’s definitely some street cred involved.
While technology has given society plenty of Jetsons-style conveniences, Gita is hardly of the Roomba variety. At its core, Gita is a carrying bot, with the ability to hold up to 40 pounds of groceries, workout gear, and yes, beer and other beverages, making it ideal for outdoor Austin events, though the company warns it doesn’t roll well in mud or tall grass.
The lithium-ion-battery-powered Gita can roll as fast as 6 miles an hour for as long as four hours — following its person without the need for GPS. The device “pairs” with its person, tracking their path while avoiding obstacles through its built-in “pedestrian etiquette” programming.
Of course, the convenience of having your own following, carrying, music-streaming, phone-charging robot will cost you, with the basic model running a cool $3,250. But the company will deliver Gita to your doorstep for a festive unboxing and robot walk-through. Gita aims to roll out internationally but is currently only available in U.S. markets for purchase online. It’s unclear whether Vespa Austin, located at 9900 N. IH-35 in North Austin, will eventually become a Gita dealer.
Austin represents an attractive market for Gita, thanks to our many walkable spaces, with the company noting, “While some urban regions make it harder to go out without congestion, some regions were already walkable cities structurally and culturally, like many parts of Austin.”
Piaggio Fast Forward is a young company but continues to push the limits of innovation, just this March announcing a collaboration with Sunnyvale, California-based Trimble that aims to enable robots to follow humans and other machines in industrial settings.
“PFF was founded to create lifestyle-transforming mobility solutions, allowing people to move with greater freedom in their neighborhoods. With the Gita robot, our first product, we’re thrilled to see that vision come to life,” says Greg Lynn, CEO and co-founder at PFF. “From students to working professionals, new parents to grandparents, Gita empowers people of all ages to more actively enjoy their surroundings, and to interact with their communities in a more meaningful way.”