Gadget Lab Podcast: Amazon’s Delivery Robot, Scout, Is Here

Kids are particularly terrible for robots. At least, that’s what researchers in Japan discovered when they let a robot roam around a shopping center in Osaka in 2015. A group of kids antagonized the robot, forcing the researchers to program an algorithm that would give the bot the agency to evade abuse. That’s just one example of challenging social interactions between humans and robots, and one that technologists have almost certainly considered when building and designing delivery bots.

Including the folks at Amazon: This week, the e-commerce behemoth dropped a web page for Scout, its new delivery robot. For now, Scout’s impact is small. The six-wheeled delivery bot is only piloting in Snohomish County, Washington, and only with Prime customers who request short-term delivery. But anything Amazon does has the potential to fundamentally disrupt shipping (not to mention a whole slew of eager startups that have been building their own automated delivery solutions). On this week’s Gadget Lab podcast, WIRED’s Arielle Pardes and Matt Simon deconstruct Scout and talk about the inevitable challenges that arise when you let a robot roam the sidewalks alongside humans and animals.

Show notes: You can read Arielle and Matt’s excellent story here. Also: Smartphones are getting weird in 2019. Real weird.

Recommendations: Three out of four dentists (or Gadget Lab podcasters) recommend reading books this week. Matt Simon recommends Darkness: A Cultural History. Arielle recommends Valley of Genius. Mike recommends Recomendo, which is quite fitting. Lauren is slacking off from reading this week and recommends using the Google Home Hub as part of your nighttime routine. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have a camera.

Send the Gadget Lab hosts feedback on their personal Twitter feeds. Arielle Pardes can be found at @pardesoteric. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode. Michael Calore can be found at @snackfight.

Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.

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social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/2019/01/gadget-lab-podcast-392