How many engineers does it take to make a robot sing? | | Daniel Carrillo | | Starship Technologies


By March 2022, Starship robots have played over 108,000 songs in the last seven months. This means that customers put about 500 songs in their baskets each day when ordering from her Starship. Considering this was not possible until recently, this is a great result. how did you achieve this?

People order songs and add them to baskets along with milk and bread like regular groceries. The items are then collected and loaded onto the Starship robot. When the robot arrives at the customer and the customer opens the lid, the robot will start playing the selected song. What a nice and pleasant surprise! However, this was not always the case.

Seven months ago, all our robot said was “Hello!” Or “Bon Appetit!” No one could have imagined that the robot would perform over 100,000 songs in the next six months.

Misha Stepanov, senior backend developer at Starship, recalls that when she joined the company in spring 2021, the robot could only dance. “For that, we enlisted the help of a choreographer who helped us move multiple robots around in sync. They danced beautifully and were fun to watch,” says Misha. He comments and admits that this inspired him to create something new and unique.

To that end, Misha began testing his ideas with Starship’s Senior Product Design Engineer, Anti Veeranna. Because of that, Anti knew everything, was involved in many initiatives, and was happy to jump around with all the crazy ideas.

In the COVID pandemic, people were already accustomed to self-isolating and working and studying from home. At the same time, this new situation increased stress levels.

On the positive side, we’ve received feedback that Starship’s robots and deliveries tend to cheer people up during this difficult time. The idea was catchy and exciting. If something like that can make someone’s day a little brighter, it’s worth the effort and time to think of ways to boost it further. We are now focused solely on taking the to another level.

They wondered if they could make the Starship robot play “Happy Birthday” when it’s a customer’s birthday, for example. “We knew that if we could pull this off and make it happen, other scenarios wouldn’t be too difficult, so we focused on that implementation,” Misha explained.

So the first idea was to redevelop Starship’s current mobile application to allow users to select songs as a separate add-on rather than just ordering a shopping cart. However, creating this solution seemed to take too long to develop, take too long to release, and required input from separate teams and coordination between various departments.

Anti then suggested what if the song could be added to the basket as a regular product. This means that no interface development is required, including additional programming and lengthy coordination processes. Sounds perfect and it just got a whole lot easier!

The only development work required seemed to be:

  • To add additional items (songs) to the menu, and;
  • The song cannot be cooked, so remove the song after ordering so as not to give it to the restaurant.
  • When the customer opens the robot’s lid, the system should check to see if a song has been ordered, and if so, play it.

By the way, it should be emphasized that the Starship robot already knew how to play mp3 files. and “Bon appetit!”. So technically it was not difficult to make the robot sing.

Misha and Anti knew that if their idea was technically feasible, their next goal was to convince others that Starship was exactly what they needed. .

They were lucky enough to find the right people in the marketing department who were both delighted and fascinated by the idea. Marketing can also add new and unique selling propositions to the service by adding songs to Starship’s distribution.

The marketing team therefore took over the entire organizational aspect of the process. This meant purchasing songs from song owners, talking with the menu department, introducing new virtual goods into the system, covering all agreements with partners and providing full marketing support. .

The first three purchased songs that Starship robots can play are:

Everything else went according to plan: PR, marketing messages, first client layout, first city (Milton Keynes), then first country (England) rollout, and global rollout.

“It was amazing and a joy for both of us to see this finally come to fruition,” Misha commented.

Customers can now choose from 3-5 songs that change frequently depending on time and location. Our services are constantly evolving.

So getting a robot to sing just takes one cool idea, two colleagues brainstorming over lunch, two days to develop, and the whole company to support it.

The result was warmly welcomed by all of our team, company and most importantly Starship customers. Orders over 100,000 just confirm that.

Well done, Misha and Anti!



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