Robot-staffed ice cream bar opens in Melbourne with NZ tech
Phosphor, an Auckland based software development and design company, has put a technological twist on ice cream this summer by developing software for the world’s first interactive robot retail store – Niska Ice Cream Bar in Melbourne. Manned by robots who speak, process orders, make payments, scoop ice cream and add toppings, Niska Ice Cream Bar is serving up innovation and world-firsts alongside its sweet treats.
The two-year project has seen Phosphor play a crucial role in Niska’s cutting-edge technology – moving ideas beyond the experimental stage and pushing the boundaries as to what seems possible. Phosphor, along with robotics companies from across the globe have worked together to bring the software, technology and training together, needed to make the interaction between the robots and humans possible. The software developed by Phosphor communicates between the customer and the robots, manages the ice cream products available, displays the choices on the kiosk, and oversees the user experience.
As you enter Niska Ice Cream Bar, customers are greeted by a human, but after that it’s all in the hands of Niska’s trusty, automated employees – Tony, Eka and Pepper. Choose from a wide range of delicious, locally made artisan ice cream (featuring flavours like salted caramel, passionfruit, mango, and the highly sought-after pistachio) and it will be scooped, sauced and topped without being touched by human hands! Niska is believed to be the first food establishment to use three distinctive robots.
Phosphor’s team were involved in all aspects of the hardware selection for the point-of-sale solution, ensuring all orders, payments, communications, speed of transactions and touch screen interfaces worked for customers from across the globe – whether it be their first or fifth time at Niska.
Cath Sample, Phosphor’s co-founder and director, says the company is excited to have its work recognised on an international scale, especially alongside innovative teams like Niska. “We’ve been in the business of creating innovative solutions for clients for 25 years, and it’s fantastic to see our efforts manifest in such an exciting, consumer-facing way.”
For their part in the Niska project, Phosphor has won the 2019 Umbraco Jury’s Choice Award, an international award that celebrates the best in innovation and technology. The judges of these awards named Phosphor’s entry as innovative, intriguing and named it a true stand-out project.
Niska CEO and co-founder Kate Orlova said the company wants to revolutionise the retail space. “For us, ice-cream is just the beginning,” she said in a statement. “We’re looking to expand the robotics into other areas of retail. The future is here, and it is exciting.”
Despite half of Australian workers surveyed recently reporting that their jobs have changed as a result of automation, Ms Orlova said the robots at Niska Ice Cream bar were not created to replace traditional roles. Rather, they were designed to enhance the overall customer experience. “Robots can’t replace human beings. But what robots are good at doing is repetitive tasks, such as scooping ice cream. This frees up staff to focus on customer service while the ice cream is being served.”
Phosphor has been working with UX, web development and touch screen kiosks for 25 years. Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Phosphor work with a wide range of companies from across the globe – NZ, Australia, the UK and US – developing a range of interactive applications to meet customers’ needs. https://www.phosphor.co.nz/work/niska-icecream-kiosk