Robot deliveries bring big tech to small town

Dax the delivery robot - KATU photo

Philomath's most popular delivery guy isn't human, it's a robot named Dax developed by Nova Dynamics.

"Certainly Philomath is an unlikely place," said Nova Dynamics director Joseph Sullivan.

Dax is the product of three years of work by the company, and one of the key things they've strived for is making Dax fun-looking and approachable.

"We want Dax to be able to act like a creature, like something understandable," Sullivan said.

Other robots have eyes that constantly survey at 360 degrees. Dax has night vision and works in all weather, but only is equipped with two eyes in the front, so when it approaches an intersection its head swivels to look both ways.

"That way you can tell where he's looking and what he's going to be thinking," Sullivan said. "It forces him to act more animal like."

Dax has done a couple deliveries for the Mexican restaurant La Rockita. Saturday, Dax delivered food to a couple a few blocks away and it arrived hot because of a heating system, that can also keep food cool, inside.

"It felt very futuristic. It was nice," said Jaeiah Van Dyke.

Dax is currently chaperoned during all its deliveries, but Nova Dynamics will let him loose over the coming weeks.

Sullivan says he's not worried about theft, since there's a camera inside Dax and the company would have clear surveillance video of the thief.

Dax's deliveries are expected to be open to the public throughout Philomath sometime this fall. The deliveries may be its current day job, but its far from the robot's dream.

"We think he'd be a great platform for the delivery of pharmaceuticals because it's a secured compartment," Sullivan says.

He adds he's been approached by schools to have Dax act as security. Then there are the jobs that are less-desirable for people.

"Picking up garbage," Sullivan said. "Things that are kind of dangerous."

Sullivan says Dax can also provide a valuable tool in helping cities map out where they aren't ADA compliant, since the robot isn't able to hop on to sidewalks.

Dax may do other tasks, but what those could be are difficult to map out at the moment.

"It's almost hard to believe we're really doing this. So, even the engineers that are creating Dax have a hard time completely grasping the fact that we're creating something that doesn't exist yet," Sullivan said.

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