Stealthy startup 6d bytes came out of hiding yesterday to debut Blendid, a fully autonomous, smoothie-making robot station. Using a combination of machine learning, machine vision and robotics, Blendid promises to deliver customizable and consistently tasting smoothies to consumers whenever they want.
Blendid is an all-in-one robotic installation that can be set up on-site in food service operations. Inside the kiosk, the robot system blends, pours and serves up smoothies. No humans are needed, except for the site operator to manage inventory and address any issues that my arise.
Customers can use a mobile app or Blendid tablets to order from a menu of drinks including Blueberry Cacao, Mango Mint and Green Warrior, with smoothies costing between $4 and $5 for a 12-ounce drink. The robot whips it together and slides it over in under two minutes.
While the wow factor for patrons might be watching the robot arm swing back and forth with precision (see video below), there is actually a lot of impressive artificial intelligence going on in the background to orchestrate the whole operation.
Through extensive use of machine learning, Blendid tracks the amount of each ingredient in each drink. So, for example, one drink might include only 40 grams of bananas instead of 45. The user can provide feedback on their purchase, and if they happen to like the one with slightly less banana, Blendid will remember this and adjust the drink accordingly next time.
Blendid also aggregates all the data from all of its users to help make recommendations. When someone goes to order a drink the system will say “Welcome back, Would you like the usual? Or, given your taste, you might like this other drink.”
There is also a lot of machine vision going on. Every item is coded, but should someone accidentally put spinach in the blueberry bin, Blendid will “see” the difference, know that blueberries are not spinach, and adjust accordingly, understanding the new location of the spinach.
Blendid also has the capacity to self configure and self-calibrate. Basically, every component that goes into Blendid is a standalone smart IoT (internet of things) device. If an ingredient runs out, it will take that item off the menu; if a part fails, Blendid identifies what went wrong and alerts the operator. Operators can also get a live, steady stream of analytics from the machine, detailing what ingredients are being used, if any ingredients are low, how many drinks is it serving, etc.
Sadly, for smoothie connoisseurs such as myself, Blendid won’t be serving me up strawberry banana protein blasts from the comfort of my home. Each machine costs around $70,000 and is meant for large food service operations like school and corporate cafeterias, supermarkets and stadiums. Once set up, Blendid can work all day without breaks, and 6d bytes co-founder and CEO, Vipin Jain, says operators can earn their money back after just nine months.
6d bytes has been developing Blendid discreetly for the past three years. The company is based in Sunnyvale, CA, has 15 employees, and Jain says it has raised “a little less than” $4 million in venture funding. The first Blendid is now operational at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale California. (if you’re down there, do a taste test and let us know about it!)
Smoothies are just the start for 6d bytes. According Jain, the company’s robotic platform can be adapted to serve up hot and cold solid food. Jain is a big believer that food service and fast casual need to change and has big plans for his company
“The whole on-the-go food space has to go through a transition for better consumer experience and operator economics,” said Jain. “There are 80,000 food service locations where Blendid can go. It’s a big addressable market. Our intent is to go after these locations.”