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Linux-driven service robot wants to deliver your towels

Aug 14, 2014 — by Eric Brown — 1240 views

A startup called Savioke has unveiled a Linux- and ROS-based SaviOne hospitality robot, currently being tested at a California hotel for room service duty.

Savioke’s “SaviOne” stands three feet tall, weighs less than 100 pounds, and can roll along at a typical human walking pace of 4 mph. The touchscreen-equipped robot lacks arms or legs, but can operate a smart elevator on its own via a wireless signal.

The so-called “Botlr” can also carry up to two cubic feet of material, which is perfect for its job description: delivering towels, phone chargers, snacks, and other items to hotel guests. The SaviOne has just started a pilot program under the name “A.L.O.” with the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, Calif., a member of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts family.

SaviOne, aka A.L.O., aka the Botlr
(click images to enlarge)

As A.L.O. approaches a room with its order, it phones the guest — no doorknocker add-on here — and its camera detects when the door opens. The robot then opens the lid to its cargo bin. Onscreen prompts show the guest how to retrieve the goods and close the lid.

That appears to be about all the tricks the SaviOne has up its sleeve right now, and no more technical details were forthcoming. However, Savioke CEO and former Willow Garage CEO Steve Cousins confirmed our suspicions that the SaviOne has a tuxified soul, as befits a good Botlr.

“SaviOne has a Linux PC inside running ROS,” wrote Cousins in an email to LinuxGizmos, referring to the widely-used, open source Robot Operating System he helped invent at Willow Garage. “We also use a number of embedded ARM microcontrollers to control the motors, read sensor data, etc.”

At the Willow Garage incubator, which shut down in February, Cousins worked with founder Scott Hassan and others to develop robots like the PR2. Willow Garage’s most important contribution, however, was developing and seeding the open source ROS, as well as nurturing a variety of innovative robotics startups, many of which are building robots that combine Linux and ROS. Maintenance of the microcontroller-focused ROS platform has now been take over entirely by the Open Source Robotics Foundation.

SaviOne with Savioke CEO Steve Cousins (left) and delivering fresh towels
(click images to enlarge)

Cousins, a former researcher at IBM and Xerox PARC, helped spin off Suitable Technologies, now headed up by Hassan, which makes the Beam telepresence robot. Cousins also helped spin off Unbounded Robotics, which makes another Linux/ROS bot called the UBR-1. According to Cousins, other companies he helped found include “Industrial Perception (acquired by Google), Redwood Robotics (also acquired by Google, technically a joint venture more than a spin-off), Hidof (ROS consulting), and three non-profits (the Open Source Robotics Foundation, the Open Perception Foundation, and the OpenCV foundation).”


Like the Beam and UBR-1, the SaviOne uses wheels instead of legs, and unlike the UBR-1, it lacks an arm. An IEEE Spectrum story speculates that a future SaviTwo bot may sprout one or two appendages, which would greatly expand its range of activities.

A New York Times story, meanwhile, says Cousins is particularly interested in building robots for the service industry and for people with disabilities. The Times story added a few more details about the SaviOne. The robot makes “R2-D2-style” chirps as it moves and is designed to avoid objects and people in its path, says the Times. Instead of tipping, guests are allowed to enter a review of the bot’s services on the touchscreen. If it’s positive, “the robot will do a small dance before it departs,” says the story. Assuming the pilot goes well, Starwoods will start expanding the A.L.O. to its other 100 Aloft hotels, says the Times.

Further information

No details were provided on an eventual commercial launch of the SaviOne. More information may be found at the Savioke website.

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3 responses to “Linux-driven service robot wants to deliver your towels”

  1. salparadise says:

    I wouldn’t care if it had a version of Debian written by God Himself – human beings need jobs more than rich people need to be even more rich and that is the only result we’ll see from the replacement of the workforce with robots – even richer rich people and a lot more very poor people. This is social suicide.

  2. airdrik says:

    We shouldn’t blame the creators of machines if anyone gets laid off because they were replaced by a machine. Instead blame the people who made the decision to do the lay-offs for not taking into consideration the needs and capabilities of those they laid off. Such people could be retrained to provide other benefits to the company including better-quality service in other areas, maintenance of the new machines, etc.

    Unfortunately, some of what you mentioned is endemic to our current society and is something that the creation of machines isn’t going to change; that rich people will get rich quite often on the backs of people less fortunate than they. The accumulation of riches that is promoted by capitalism is sometimes viewed as being more important than or overriding the more fundamental need we all have to take care of each other and this planet that we live on. The value of wealth is not in the accumulation or possessing of wealth, but in the good that can be done for others, and unfortunately most people don’t understand that.

  3. Allen Garvin says:

    I have to go to my door and open it up to receive my towel? This is just dumb. I want my towels ready when I enter the bathroom. Preferably warmed, when I get out of the shower.

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