An Aussie 'retail robotics' startup has launched a new ice cream bar in Melbourne where robots serve single scoops

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
  • Australian startup Niska has opened a new ice cream bar in Melbourne where the scoops are served by robots.
  • The store is in Federation Square, with ice cream served by three robot attendants Pepper, Eka and Tony.
  • The store includes Australian-made gourmet and artisan ice-cream – with 16 flavours ranging from rocky road, cookies and cream and salted caramel.

Melbourne’s already bustling food scene is getting a new addition to the mix, with a new ice cream store where robots serve customers.

Australian retail robotics startup Niska has opened a Robotic Ice Cream Bar in Federation Square, which serves your favourite icy snacks through a team of robot attendants: Pepper, Eka and Tony.

Humanoid robot Pepper was created by Japan’s SoftBank Robotics to serve as a type of kiosk at shops, hospitals and airports. It can track eye contact, express emotion and even have simple conversations with people.

Softbank first entered Australia back in 2016, according to the Australian Financial Review. Two years later its Australian subsidiary – Brisbane based ST-Solutions – sold 25 of the latest model Pepper robots, which retails at $US27,000 ($37,500). One Pepper robot was used to communicate with patients at a Townsville hospital during a five-week placement, the AFR reported.

Pepper. Image, supplied.

Eka is a robot arm with seven axes of movement that scoops the ice cream, while Tony pours chocolate on top of the scoop.

The store includes Australian-made gourmet and artisan ice cream – with 16 flavours including rocky road, cookies and cream, and salted caramel.

Niska provides digital and robotics solutions to help retail businesses boost their profits and customer engagement.

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.”

Victoria’s minister for jobs, innovation and trade Martin Pakula said the robotic ice cream bar is “a real feather in the cap” for innovation in the state.

“There is amazing work going on here in areas like robotics and artificial intelligence – and the ice cream’s also pretty good,” he said in a statement.

Melbourne has a strong startup scene, supported by the Victorian Government’s startup agency, LanchVic. It is also home to one of the world’s largest startup accelerator programs, 500 Startups.

In 2018, a report by Startup Genome estimated that Melbourne’s startup ecosystem, then valued at $AU2.14 billion, would at least double in value over the next few years.

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