October 6, 2022
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA
Tech

How many engineers does it take to make a robot sing? | by Daniel Carrillo | Starship Technologies | Mar, 2022

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As of March 2022, Starship Robots has played over 108,000 songs in the last seven months, which means our customers put about 500 songs in their basket when ordering from Starship. This is a great result considering that it was not possible until recently. How do we achieve this?

People order songs, add milk and bread to their baskets, like a regular grocery item. After that, the items are collected and loaded onto a starship robot. When the robot comes to the customer and the customer opens the lid, the robot starts playing the selected song. What a beautiful and entertaining surprise! But this did not happen all the time.

Seven months ago, all our robots said “Good afternoon!” Or “Forest hunger!” And no one could have imagined that the robot would play more than 100,000 songs in the next half year!

Misha Stepanov, Starship’s senior backend developer, recalls that when he joined the company in the spring of 2021, robots could only dance. “For this, we were supported by a choreographer who helped us move several robots in sync. They danced beautifully and it was fun to watch, “Misha commented, acknowledging that it inspired her to create something new and unique.

To do this, Misha began testing her ideas with Starship’s senior product design technologist, Aunty Birenna, who has worked for the company from the very beginning. Thanks for that, Auntie knows everything and everyone, has a hand in a lot of effort and was happy to surround all the crazy ideas.

In the Kovid epidemic, people were already becoming accustomed to self-isolation and working or studying from home. At the same time, this new situation has also increased the level of stress, as many people often feel rather lonely.

On the positive side, we have received feedback that Starship Robots and Deliveries encourage people during these difficult times. The idea was fascinating and inspiring – if something like that could brighten someone’s day a bit, it’s worth the effort and time to think about how to enhance it. As a result, Misha and Aunty are only focused on taking robot interaction to another level.

They wondered if it would be possible to get a starship robot to play “Happy Birthday” when it was the customer’s birthday. “We knew that if we could stop it and make it happen, nothing else would be difficult. Therefore, we are focused on its implementation, ”Misha explained.

Therefore, the first idea was to redevelop Starship’s current mobile application, so that when ordering a grocery basket together, one could also choose a song as a separate add-on. However, creating this solution seemed to require a lot more development hours, longer releases, input from other teams, and coordination between different departments.

Aunty then suggested that if a song could be added to the basket as a regular product, that meant no need to develop an interface with no additional programming or lengthy synchronization process. Sounds perfect and much easier!

It seemed that only development efforts were needed:

  • To add an additional item (song) to the menu, and;
  • To remove a song after ordering so that it does not go to the restaurant, because the song cannot be cooked, and;
  • When the customer opens the lid of a robot, the system should check if any song has been ordered and if yes, it should be played.

However, it should be noted that Starship Robots already knew how to play mp3 files, since they were able to say “Good afternoon!”, “Have a nice day!” And “Forest hunger!” Therefore, from a technical point of view, it was not difficult for the robot to listen to music.

Misha and Auntie realized that their idea was as technically possible as possible, so their next goal was to convince others that this was exactly what Starship needed.

They were lucky enough to find the right people from the marketing department who were delighted and fascinated by the idea. For marketing, adding a song to Starship Delivery will add a new unique sales offer to the service.

Therefore, the marketing team has embraced the whole organizational aspect of the process, which means they have purchased songs from song owners, negotiated with the menu department, introduced new virtual products into our system, covered all agreements with partners, and provided full marketing support. .

The first three purchased songs that Starship Robot was able to play were:

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

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

Today, customers can choose between 3-5 songs, which change frequently depending on the time and location. Our services are constantly evolving.

So, to sing to a robot, you just need a great idea, two colleagues to think about lunch, a few days to develop… and then the whole company to support it.

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

Well done Misha and Aunty!

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