Is This Tiny European Nation a Preview of Our Tech Future?

On a Spring afternoon, I’m gazing out the window of an ­office building on the outskirts of Estonia’s capital, ­Tallinn, watching people stroll below, when a cream-­colored plastic container mounted on black wheels rounds the corner and begins maneuvering its way among the pedestrians. The device looks like a kid’s toy. But in reality it’s a high-tech delivery robot called Starship and potentially the next mega-profitable invention to spring from this snowy, miniature country on the northern edge of Europe—one of the more unexpected launching pads on the planet. “If you look at sci-fi movies set 20 years from now, you don’t see people carrying their groceries. Robots just arrive at their homes,” says Ahti Heinla, cofounder and CEO of Starship Technologies. Reality, he says, has caught up to sci-fi. “About two years ago we realized it was possible to create this part of the future right now.”

For a snapshot of how we might all be living tomorrow, there are few better places to visit than this picturesque city of 400,000, whose winding medieval alleyways offer an elegant contrast to its digital present. Creating the future now, as Heinla puts it, is Estonia’s driving project, and increasingly it is its core business too.

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Victoria Krisman
Victoria Krisman is Interactive Media Specialist and Communications Manager for the Intelligent Community Forum.
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