Visitors who attended Design Joburg from 19 to 22 May would have seen a cat-shaped robot navigating through the Sandton Convention Centre reading out welcome messages and reacting to forehead and ear rubs.

The robot is one of six types of automated delivery robots programmed by Ctrl Robotics that can carry a load of up to 30kg from a single battery charge of between 10 to 24 hours.

A similar automated delivery robot — not cat-shaped — is running at Netcare’s Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg delivering medicines to patients within eight to 12 minutes, a task that previously took staff two to three hours to complete.

Ctrl Robotics creates proprietary software for robots it imports from China that services hotels, restaurants and hospitals. It is working on warehouse automation and to automate cleaning of warehouses.

The robots have the same technology as self-driving cars, such as LiDAR, infrared and depth sensors and RGB cameras. It runs on Android and navigates by avoiding obstacles; it is adaptable in changing environments and moves around people.

Steven Pinto, chief executive of Ctrl Robotics, said that not a lot of companies in South Africa need robotics and automation. “Salaries are getting more expensive, but machines and automation help lower the cost of production, and when you lower the cost of production, you can pass on the savings to the customer.

“Machines can lower costs because they come at a fixed cost, whereas people fluctuate based on the price of food, rent and inflation — robots don’t deal with that.”

Robotics was complicated, difficult to use and set up “but our tools and services are there to make it simple”, he said.

Continue reading here: