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Cartken Heads to Japan, Walmart Takes to the Skies
Starship, Kiwibot, DroneUp, Wing, Pudu, Mini Melts in the news
This past week shaped up to be a huge one or restaurant robotics and food automation, with players large and small making announcements across the globe. Read on for news from Cartken, Mitsubishi, Yo-Kai Express, Walmart, Pudo Robotics and many more.
New Japanese Law Paves the Way for Cartken’s Robotic Deliveries
Japan passed a legislative update, effective this past April, that allowed autonomous robots onto public roads. Previously, PDDs were required to be followed by a human minder that could take over operations as necessary. While domestic players like Panasonic have a foothold in the Japanese delivery robotics market, international brands like Cartken are making moves as well.
Cartken is working with Mitsubishi on Japanese operations, and recently signed ecommerce giant Rakuten as a client. The pilot project includes food, alcohol and grocery deliveries across the Tokyo suburb of Tsukuba and the Nagoya suburbs of Tokoname and Toki. The pilot is the country’s largest by area, volume and duration.
Walmart Takes to the Skies
Retail giant Walmart is expanding its sky-high drone ambitions, as it brings on Alphabet-owned Wing as a new partner, servicing the Dallas-Fort Worth region. That metro area has proven to be a hotspot for drone delivery, as other Part 135 certified competitors like Flytrex have shown. Walmart also announced an expansion of an existing partnership with DroneUp, active in Florida and Virginia.
Mini Melts Grows Its Ice Cream Vending Ambitions
Mini Melts, a beaded ice cream brand that originated in Europe and gained traction in the US as a competitor to Dippin' Dots, has seen significant growth in recent years, evolving from a few retail outlets to a vast network of automated kiosks. The brand transitioned to automated vending in 2004, starting with third-party suppliers until 2019 when they began developing their own robotic kiosk. In an interview, Mini Melts USA's CEO Dan Kilcoyn revealed the considerations behind this move, highlighting the shift from cash to digital payment methods and the challenges in maintaining the right temperature for their product. To distribute the ice cream across the US, Mini Melts relies on 23 distribution centers and owns negative 40-degree tractor-trailer units. Their presence spans various locations including zoos, family entertainment centers, college campuses, and even rest stops, which are seeing a surge in business due to the increase in electric vehicle charging stations.
More Robots Head to School
The race to serve college campuses is heating up, with more PDD players going after Starship’s turf, with the Estonian market leader now on 50+ campuses. Cartken celebrated 50,000 orders at the University of Arizona, as part of its partnership with Grubhub Campus Dining. Not to be outdone, Kiwibot deployed to University of Maine and University of Southern Indiana, via Grubhub / Sodexo.
Universities are looking at other ways to add automation to campus as well. Lehigh University added a 24/7 automated convenience center, that includes a Yo-Kai Express ramen robot. University of San Diego is partnering with AiFi to build an autonomous mini market. And in Philadelphia, Temple University is working with Grubhub to add self-ordering kiosks across campus.
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Yo-Kai Express Hits 26 States
Speaking of Yo-Kai Express, the robotic ramen retailer has expanded to 127 locations across 26 states. The company hopes to be in all 50 states shortly, unclear how it feels about Washington D.C. The Northern California-based company also has a strong presence overseas, including locations at a number of Japanese train stations.
Pudu Robotics Named IDEA Award Finalist
Restaurant tray serving robot Pudu Robotics’ PuduBot2 has been honored as an IDEA Featured Finalist, at the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA). The award, judged by a panel of international experts, recognizes design, engineering, and innovation in industrial design.
In Other News
DoorDash announces AI-powered voice ordering solution for restaurants. Locus Robotics his 2 billion items picked. Charting the impact of Hurricane Hilary on delivery operations. Amazon to roll out palm-scanning payments to all Whole Foods by EOY. Key takeaways from Instacart’s S-1. Serve Robotics seeks Head of Advertising Sales. Hormel Foods chats with OttOmate Publisher Jonah Bliss about future of robots in grocery and foodservice operations.