As restaurants around the world begin the process of re-opening, some of the (many) issues they will have to grapple with is keeping their establishments clean and reducing human-to-human contact. Macco Robotics wants to do both with its forthcoming Dbot.
The “D” in Dbot actually does double duty in this case, as it stands for “disinfect” and “delivery” (duh). The main part of the Dbot is a mobile base on wheels that uses lidar and computer vision to autonomously map out and navigate around the inside of a restaurant. Different modules can be attached to the top of the base, such as a sprayer, which mists out disinfectant, and a tray module for carrying food and drinks to tables.
This means a restaurant could spend its open hours shuttling food to customers without human servers (reducing a vector of transmission), and then turn into a sprayer at the end of the day. (Macco said that the robot can also be controlled manually, should a location require disinfecting in hard-to-reach places.)
It is this modularity, according to Macco Robotics’ CTO Kishhanth Renganathan, that will make Dbot stand out in what is becoming the quickly commoditized space of restaurant server robots. “It’s not just a delivery bot,” Renganathan said to me over the phone this week, “You are just buying one robot for two different applications.”
But will this flexibility be enough to entice cash-strapped restaurants devastated by the global pandemic and ensuing lockdowns? Bear Robotics’ Penny offers a swappable tray system, but there’s no reason it couldn’t offer some kind of sterilizer add-on. And if restaurants want a robot with a proven track record, they may look more towards Kennon Robotics in China, which has 6,000 robots already in use in restaurants and other hospitality venues.
If a restaurant wants to go with robots, what it chooses may just come down to price. Keenon’s robot can be leased for roughly $1,500 – $1,600 a month. Renganathan said that Macco will offer a lease as well, though pricing was not set yet.
In addition to swappable functions, another thing that sets the Dbot apart is how it fits in with Macco’s long-term vision. The company’s ultimate goal is to make a full-on, autonomous robotic restaurant experience. The Kime will one day leave its stationary kiosk to become a free-wheeling chef, and will hand off food to the Dbot, which will take it out to the tables. No human contact at all.
That vision is still off in the distance, though, and we need to get through this pandemic first. For restaurants planning on re-opening this summer, the Dbot will be available starting in July/August of this year.