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Smoothie-making bot at Walmart signals the rise of the robot fast-food worker

Luke Dormehl
·2 mins read

You know that robots are going mainstream when they pop up in Walmart. That was the case for startup Blendid which debuted its fourth Bay Area location at the Fremont Walmart in California this week. The kiosk, open seven days a week, allows customers to place contactless orders for a 12-ounce smoothie, which will then be whipped up by an on-site autonomous robot. Each smoothie is made to order, exactly how the customer wants it, within three minutes.

“Consumers use their cell phone to order by scanning a QR code at the kiosk or via the Blendid app,” Vipin Jain, Blendid’s CEO and co-founder, told Digital Trends. “They browse our menu of smoothies made from whole fruits, and vegetables. Once they select a drink, they customize it to their personal taste and health preferences, by modifying the amount of each ingredient as desired. Then they place their order, and Blendid robot gets to work preparing their drink. Once the drink is ready, they receive a text with instructions for a contactless drink pickup. The robot serves the drink to them when they confirm the pickup.”

Blendid
The new Fremont Walmart location in action. Blendid

A robot that can whip up a delicious smoothie would be news at any time, but the fact that it is opening now makes it all the more notable. 2020, as Jain acknowledged, has been an incredibly rough year for everyone. If you’re in the service industry, things are particularly tough — with already declining margins battered by lower foot traffic and less consumer spending. The fact that Blendid is opening its fourth outlet in under two years is impressive (we covered the first one in 2019). It also speaks to the way that robots are becoming a growing part of the service sector.

“COVID-19 is a pandemic that robots were built to help navigate,” Jain said. “Contactless food prep is now a necessity, and it is something that robots inherently deliver. Blendid has seen a tremendous rise in demand since COVID-19 started — and we’re grateful to be in a position to help.”

This is far from the only robot-aided food prep innovation we’ve covered recently. This month, Miso Robotics’ Flippy kitchen assistant robot went on sale. Meanwhile, cocktail-mixing robots and baristas are continuing to make waves (and drinks) while, on the other end of the consumer journey, delivery robots are only going from strength to strength.