Unilever is Uni-lovin' Autonomous Ice Cream
Plus Dronin' on, Dyson, Servi Lift, Wing Zone and Butter 'Bot IRL.
Given the senseless, tragic events of this week, it feels a little silly to write about a bunch of food robots.
Perhaps, however, we can start doing something about it. I’m sending this issue out to all OttOmate subscribers and asking you to donate any amount to an organization like Everytown for Gun Safety or Moms Demand Action.
Hug your kids.
Alright. Evidently all of the marketing teams at food automation startups got together and decided to announce ALL THE NEWS this week. There was so much of it that this issue is going to be a bit of a lightning round as we try to parse through everything that happened. Buckle up, buttercup, there’s a lot to get through.
Ameri-drone Dream, Flytrex and Unilever Partner for Ice Cream by Drone
Unilever really wants to deliver you ice cream this summer. The conglomerate behind such brands as Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers announced this week that it has partnered with Flytrex to offer ice cream delivery by drone.
The two are offering ice cream drone delivery across all of Flytrex’s service areas in Holly Springs, Fayetteville and Raeford, North Carolina and Granbury, Texas.
This isn’t the first time Ben & Jerry have been airborne. Back in February of 2020 Unilever partnered with Terra Drone for a drone delivery stunt in Europe.
While drone delivery of ice cream isn’t the hugest news (Flytrex is also flying sub sandwiches now), I bring it up because just a couple weeks ago, Unilever partnered with Robomart to create a modern ice cream truck. While the Robomart van isn’t autonomous, the ice cream store it carries is. Hail the store, it comes to you, you grab what you want and get charged automatically.
Unilever, it seems, is pretty hip when it comes to experimenting with new technology, and I — as an avid ice cream eater — am here for it.
As the song goes, the only guys who treat me right, are Ben and Jerry.
Speaking of drones delivering stuff…
Since we’re on the subject, Walmart announced this week that it was expanding its drone delivery program to potentially reach 4 million delivery customers by the end of this year.
From the company’s blog post announcing the expansion:
Today we’re announcing we’ll be expanding our DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites by the end the year, providing the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households across six states – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. This provides us the ability to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year.
Between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items, such as Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes. For a delivery fee of $3.99, customers can order items totaling up to 10 pounds, so simply put, if it fits safely it flies.
(Emphasis mine because what the hell kind of shopping list is that?)
Worth noting here is that Flytrex has been doing a delivery pilot for Walmart since September 2020 — but this massive expansion is with DroneUp, which Walmart invested in just about a year ago.
OttOmate readers will know that drone delivery is moving at two speeds simultaneously. One the one hand, there is a slow, extensive regulatory process that drone delivery services needs to go through with the FAA here in the U.S. and various other civil aviation authorities around the world. That will (rightly) take a long time before drone delivery has any chance of becoming common.
On the other hand, drone delivery services are popping up all over the world, and once regulatory approvals are met, drones adoption could be swift. Drones are fast, don’t add to road (or sidewalk!) congestion, and your food arrives piping hot — or freezing cold if you’re getting that pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
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Re-Tweet #1: Dyson’s Sphere of Influence
Dyson isn’t a company that I’d normally cover here at OttOmate, and even this coverage is tangential, at best. But check out the video embedded in the tweet Dyson sent out this week.
Yes, it’s a big promo video for the ridiculously expensive (yet ridiculously awesome) vacuum cleaner company. But they teased out some of the work they are doing in robotics which includes, as the video shows, robots clearing dishes and manipulating water bottles.
I write a bunch about robots making and delivering food, it’s okay to devote some digital ink to a company making a robot to clean up after your meal. Oh, and they are hiring 700 robot engineers, if you’re looking for work.
Bear Robotics’ New Servi Lift to Go the Extra (Last) Mile?
Bear Robotics, which seems to be the market leader in restaurant server robots here in the U.S., introduced a brand new version of its Servi robot this week. Dubbed the Servi Lift, it’s got a bunch of new features and functionality including:
Doors that close off the storage compartment
Configurable storage options
A big screen for advertising (table stakes any longer for server robots)
The ability to talk with security turnstiles and elevators to gain entrance into buildings and reach different floors
This is a big evolution for Bear as previous Servis have basically been self-driving racks on wheels. Additionally, up until now Servis were meant just for inside a restaurant, shuttling food and empty dishes back and forth from kitchen to table. Servi Lift, however, is headed outdoors.
On Linkedin, Bear Robotics Founder and CEO, John Ha posted a video of Servi Lift at a tradeshow with the #lastmiledelivery.
The new Servi Lift looks slick, and if it can fulfill the promise of talking with turnstiles and elevators, it will be awesome (Woowa Brothers’ robots were supposed to do something like this in South Korea last year, thanks in part to partnerships with Hyundai Elevator and HDC I-Controls). But as a “last mile” delivery vehicle? I’m not so sure.
I wonder if Ha is being a little generous with the “last mile” designation, as the form factor of Servi Lift seems more compatible with the last-couple-hundred-meters. The Servi Lift could be a perfect solution for an office building, complex or campus with on-site eateries (think: Google). I haven’t seen Servi Lift in person, but its appears to lack a certain… robustness, or ruggedness to take on true outdoor last mile deliveries.
It’s a good next step for Bear, however, and could, err, lift the company up even higher in the restaurant market.
Re-Tweet #2: Butter Bot
Remy Robotics Comes Out of Stealth With Autonomous Ghost Kitchen
Barcelona-based Remy Robotics officially came out of stealth mode this week and announced its robot kitchen platform for delivery only restaurants.
Founded in 2018, Remy has actually already been operating five food brands out of two locations (Barcelona and Paris), and has already sold 60,000 dishes. With the move out of stealth, Remy announced it was adding a third location in Barcelona and is opening up its technology to other food operators.
The Spoon nabbed an interview with Remy, writing:
…[Remy] configured the entire process of food making to be done by robots, developing recipes and cooking techniques based on a variety of parameters, including the shape of Remy’s own packaging and how much moisture is lost during the cooking process. The company claims that their robotic systems decide autonomously how and for how long to cook a dish, based on where a customer lives and how long the delivery will take. They also utilize “computer vision and neural networks” alongside “smart ovens and sensors controlling temperature, moisture, weight and other key parameters.”
There are actually a number of companies vying to automate ghost kitchens. Mukunda Foods is building out its own network of highly automated ghost kitchens. Kitchen Robotics in Israel has built an all-in-one Beastro. And last month, REEF was looking to get an ownership stake in 800 Degrees GO, the joint venture between Piestro and 800 Degrees pizza chain.
With the pandemic still waxing and waning, and people used to getting food delivered, the ghost kitchen business is still sitting pretty. Now we’ll see if automation can increase that output and improve order accuracy.
Wing Zone’s Flippy Trip
Wing Zone is doubling down on its relationship with Miso Robotics. The fast casual brand announced this week that it was making Miso’s Flippy a standard build for all future restaurant builds. According to the press announcement, Wing Zone has “over 100 new shops in [its] current development pipeline.”
This announcement comes on the heels of Wavemaker Labs (which Miso is a portfolio company of) and Wing Zone launching Wing Zone Labs earlier this month. Wing Zone Labs will be a franchisee of Wing Zone that will presumably sport a ton of Wavemaker-related automation (Flippy, Sippy, Chippy, CookRight Coffee, etc.).
Flippy has found its sweet spot working the fryer. Jack in the Box, Chipotle, White Castle and Inspire Brands are all testing the robot out.
That’s it for this week. Let’s hope next week is better.
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.