COSY robotics will make indoor environments as accessible as GPS has made the outside world. It starts with a great map!

COSY is a robotics company developing technology to create 3D immersive maps of complex indoor spaces. Sounds impressive (at least to me) but what does that sequence of words mean and why should you care? Think of how GPS and Google Maps have transformed so much of our world. Househunting? Type in an address and you can zoom in from outer space until you are literally in the backyard. Driving in an unfamiliar setting and want to find the nearest hospital/movie theater/supermarket/dentist/CPA? Siri or Google are at your service and can tell you everything you might want to know, then provide turn-by-turn directions and a traffic report. Curious what’s in that building you just passed – back to Siri or Google.

Perfect world with one problem and I’d say it’s a very big problem. The moment you lose that GPS signal and wifi, you’re back in the dark ages (technically you’re back in the earlier years of this millennium). In a retail setting, store employees have to provide directions, if they are able. If you happen to frequent big box stores, perhaps you’ve been told that you can find a desired object in Aisle 12. Somewhat helpful until you see a long aisle filled with thousands of products arranged according to a secret plan which can only be accessed with the right password and handshake.

You might wonder why the problem hasn’t been solved indoors if we’re so advanced outside. There are at least two challenges.

  • Challenge #1: access to GPS is virtually non-existent in indoor environments and wifi access can also be quite inconsistent.
  • Challenge #2: indoor environments typically change much faster than outdoor features. Buildings tend to remain immobile but products on a shelf in a retail setting are always moving.

COSY will make indoor settings as accessible as GPS and Google Maps have made the utopian outdoor environment mentioned above. It starts with that 3D immersive map I previously mentioned (you knew I’d get back to it). In the first iteration, a ground-based robot will create a detailed map of all products in a store. The technology will eventually shift to a drone-based solution. These maps can be quickly compared to store planograms (ideal product layouts) and discrepancies highlighted. Now two things become possible:

  •  Retailers will save significantly on inventory management
  • And…the really big thing for consumers – when you want to find a specialty item, your phone can take you directly to it (no more searching for 10 minutes in Aisle 12)

Now it’s just some tweaking and you can upload your whole shopping list and speed through the store. What might that mean to someone who is blind or has some degree of cognitive impairment?