Robot pony fetches shopping for self-isolating family

Electronics wiz Callum O’Leary, trapped by the coronavirus restrictions, has solved the problem of shopping for essential supplies without leaving home.

Mr O’Leary (77) drew on 40 years’ experience designing industrial robots for Ford Motor Company to build the device in less than two weeks.

“I’ve got my wife Pearl here, plus her old dad who’s 106,” he told us, “so there’s no way we’re risking going to the shops.”

Mr O’Leary added that he had been trying to book an on-line delivery but the next available slot was October 2027. Using his yougest daughter’s toy pony, rescued after 50 years in the loft, the sparky engineer added an electric motor, battery and drive pulleys for motion, plus a radar-linked satnav navigation system, wifi link, front and rear facing cameras and a loudspeaker.

Mr O’Leary sets the pony off from his driveway and then controls its 1.6 mile journey to Tesco from a laptop in the comfort of his lounge. The machine has limited autonomy but can detect kerbs, traffic lights and parked cars.

“Once it gets inside the store,” he said, “I steer it over to Customer Services and read out the items I want through the loudspeaker. I think it’s so novel that staff always rush out to get the goods and load her up!” Checkout staff take payment in cash from a leather pannier, returning the change under Mr O’Leary’s close watch. Overall, he thinks the project is a huge success in keeping his family safe, with only a few teething problems.

“It needs a much better loudspeaker,” he told Spoofflé. “On Tuesday I asked for a box of Condor for my pipe and it came home with a box of condoms.”