As of March 2022, Starship robots had played more than 108,000 songs in the last seven months, which means that our customers put about 500 songs in their cart each day when they placed an order with Starship. This is a fantastic result considering it was not possible until recently. How did we get there?
People order songs, add to their basket along with milk and bread, like a normal grocery item. After that, the items are collected and loaded into a Starship robot. When the robot reaches the client and the client opens the lid, the robot starts playing the selected song. What a most beautiful and entertaining surprise! But this has not always been the case.
Seven months ago, all our robots said, “Good afternoon!” or “Bon appetit!” and no one could even imagine robots playing over 100,000 songs over the next half year!
Starsha’s senior backend developer Misha Stepanov recalls that when she joined the company in the spring of 2021, robots could only dance. “That’s why we had the support of a choreographer who helped us synchronize various robots. They danced really well and it was fun to see him, ”says Misha, admitting that this also inspired him to create something new and unique.
That’s why Misha started testing her ideas with Anti Veeranna, a senior Starship product design technologist who has worked at the company from the beginning. Thanks to this, Anti knows everything and everyone, collaborates in many efforts and was happy to bounce back all the crazy ideas.
During the COVID pandemic, people were already getting used to self-isolation and working or studying from home. At the same time, this new situation had also increased stress levels, as they often felt quite alone.
On the plus side, we’ve received feedback that robots and Starship deliveries tend to cheer people up during these difficult times. The idea was catchy and inspiring: if something like this can brighten someone’s day up a bit, it’s worth the effort and time to think about how to increase it further. This made Misha and Anti focus solely on taking the robot’s interaction to another level.
They wondered if it would be possible to get a Starship robot to play “Happy Birthday,” for example, when it’s the customer’s birthday. “We knew that if we could get it done and make it a reality, any other scenario wouldn’t be difficult either. So we focused on its implementation,” Misha explained.
So the first idea was to rebuild the current Starship mobile app, so that along with ordering a grocery basket, a song could also be chosen as a separate add-on. However, the creation of this solution seemed to require a little too many hours of development, long launches, the contribution of another team and coordination between different departments.
Anti then suggested that it would happen if a song could be added to the basket as a normal product, which means that no interface development, no additional programming, and a long coordination process are needed. It sounded perfect and so much easier!
It seemed that the only development effort needed was:
- To add an additional item (songs) to the menu, and;
- Delete a song after ordering so you don’t pass it on to the restaurant, as the song can’t be cooked, and;
- When the customer opens the lid of a robot, the system should check for a song and, if so, play it.
By the way, the Starship robots already knew how to play mp3 files, as they could say “Good afternoon!”, “Have a nice day!” and “Bon appetit!”. So from a technical point of view, it wasn’t hard to get robots to sing.
Misha and Anti understood that if their idea was technically as feasible as it was, then their next goal was also to convince others that this was exactly what Starship needed.
They were lucky enough to find the right people in the marketing department who were delighted and fascinated by the idea. For marketing, adding a song to Starship deliveries would also add a new unique selling proposition to the service.
Therefore, the marketing team took care of the entire organizational side of the process, i.e. they bought songs from the song owners, discussed with the menu department, introduced new virtual products to our system, went cover all agreements with partners and offered full marketing support. .
The first three purchased songs that the Starship robots were able to play were:
Everything else went according to plan: public relations, marketing messaging, design for the first customers, deployment of the first city (Milton Keynes), then the first country (England) and then came the global deployment.
“Seeing this finally happen was amazing and a pleasure to witness for both of us,” Misha commented.
Currently, guests can choose from 3 to 5 songs, which change frequently depending on the time and location. Our service is constantly evolving.
So, to make a robot sing, you just need a great idea, two mates to brainstorm at lunch, a couple of days for development … and then the whole company to support it.
The result was well received by everyone: the team, the company and, most importantly, our Starship customers! More than 100,000 orders only confirm this.
Well done, Misha and Anti!