An Australian start-up has opened an ice cream store in Melbourne that is “manned” by three robotic servers, with other types of retail in the company’s sights.
Unveiled at Federation Square in Victoria’s capital city, the Niska ice cream bar uses three robot attendants — named Eka, Pepper and Tony — to serve customers.
According to Niska, the robots provide “meaningful interactions from the moment a customer steps into the store”.
One of the robots, Tony, which has two arms and a digital screen acting as a face, was developed by technology developer ABB, which operates five business divisions globally, including one in “robotics and discrete automation”.
It is part of the YuMI range of robots, launched in 2015, which ABB’s website states were designed to work directly with humans to carry out “precise, repetitive tasks”.
CEO and co-founder Kate Orlova said that Niska is looking to expand into other areas of retail as well, beyond ice cream bars.
“For us, ice cream is just the beginning. We’re looking to expand the robotics into other areas of retail,” she said.
“The future is here and it is exciting! We look forward to changing the retail game and pioneering retail robotics.”
Niska did not disclose what other industries, or locations, may be targeted.
It did, however, claim that its robotic store was a first for Australian retail.
Yet robotics is not an entirely new concept in the local retail market. In May last year, US company NEXT Franchise Brands announced that it would introduce robotic frozen yoghurt brand Reis & Irvy’s to Australia.
It is understood that Reis & Irvy’s operates as a kiosk or vending machine to serve customers their choice of frozen yoghurt flavours as well as the option to add toppings.
The business posted a video on its Facebook account in July this year of one of its kiosks in operation at the University of Queensland’s student orientation week.
Both Niska and Reis & Irvy’s were approached to comment on their expansion plans, but neither had responded by the time of publishing.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.