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This robotic backpack follows its leader wherever you may wander

·Senior Editor
·2-min read
Gitamini

Back in 2019, Boston's Piaggio Fast Forward company released the first iteration of an automated cargo hauler for pedestrians, dubbed the Gita (pronounced JEE-tah). Two years, and multiple design improvements later, PFF is set to release a smaller, more nimble version which they're calling the Gitamini this October.

With a cargo volume of up to nearly 2,000 cubic inches and capable of carrying up to 40 pounds of gear and traveling at a top speed of 6 mph, the original Gita was a startlingly large machine able to hold a shopping carts-worth of groceries and keep up with cyclists. However, the Gita's size made it a liability to other pedestrians when navigating on crowded sidewalks, especially the earlier versions that relied on a belt-mounted tracker to know where its owners were.

The Gitamini, on the other hand, is about the size of a Border Collie (990 cubic square inches of cargo space) and weighs just 28 pounds. It can carry up to 20 pounds of gear and thanks to external handles the mini can easily be hoisted over curbs, stairs and other obstacles even when fully loaded. The mini is rated for a maximum range of 21 miles or around six hours of use before needing a recharge. What's more, PFF has traded in the belt-based tracker for advanced optics and machine vision. With the push of an onboard button, the mini will autonomously find, recognize and follow its "leader" using only visual and radar cues like color and motion — the robot does not require a GPS, cell, or wireless network connection in order to do so. 

Gita and mini
Gita and mini

The mini is also equipped with what the company is calling "pedestrian etiquette software." This trains the robot to follow its leader at a safe distance and speed while proactively anticipating the movements of the people around them. The mini's wheels are independently powered, enabling it to make Rivian-esque zero-radius tank turns, while a third motor is dedicated to maintaining the robot's balance when accelerating and braking. 

"Seeing the initial consumer response to Gita proved to us what a pioneer the product was within the consumer robotics industry,” said Greg Lynn, PFF’s CEO, said in a prepared statement. “The ask to ourselves then became, ‘how do we take what we have heard from people and create something different for a new segment of consumers?’’ Gitamini is the company's answer.

The Gitamini is slated to go on sale for $1,850 on October 15th while the original, larger Gita will see a price reduction to $2,950 at the same time. 

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