If you want to see the future of robots, go to college. I don’t mean become a student and take classes, I mean just literally head to a college campus as they are quickly becoming the go-to spot for companies to launch robots. Among the latest is Blendid’s smoothie-making robot, which is launching at the University of San Francisco next Monday.
Blendid (a.k.a. 6DBytes) came out of stealth just about a year ago to launch its autonomous smoothie making station at the Plug and Play Center in Sunnyvale, CA. As The San Francisco Chronicle reports, Blendid has partnered with food service operator Bon Appetit to bring the smooth(ie) operator to USF. Chef B, as the robot is called there, can make up to 36 smoothies and hour and will operate 24 hours a day at the Market Cafe on USF’s campus.
USF is just the latest college to test out robots on campus. Northern Arizona University (NAU), George Mason University (GMU), UC Berkeley, and University of the Pacific all now have little rover delivery bots running around, dropping off food and snacks on their campuses.
College campuses are popular destinations for robots because there is a large population centralized in one contained geographic area, and everyone there has to eat. A robot like Blendid works well in that type of high-traffic environment because smoothies are typically something people want to grab quickly, and the robot can just sit and churn them out literally around the clock.
Blendid offers a franchise option for food service companies like Bon Appetit, allowing them to install the $70,000 robot with a lower up-front cost. Given the work Sodexo is doing with Starship’s robots at NAU and GMU, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was exploring a similar arrangement.
One interesting bit about the rollout of USF’s new robot smoothie maker; Blendid put this tidbit on its FAQ page:
Q: Does Blendid eliminate any jobs for existing Bon Appétit workers?
A: No. Blendid kiosk is an added bonus. It brings another food option in the Market Cafe without adding more stress on existing staff. It won’t eliminate any jobs. We hope this will help alleviate load on staff and reduce wait lines during busy hours.
The role of robots in the workforce is an ongoing debate, and it looks like Blendid and Bon Appetit are trying to get ahead of any controversy. The impact of automation is a big issue and it’s one that we’ll be tackling at our upcoming ArticulATE conference on food robotics in San Francisco on April 16th. You should definitely get a ticket and join us for the discussion!