What do you get when you mix robotics, soft serve ice cream, and a mind-melting theme song? You get Yaskawa-kun. Now appearing in Tokyo’s Summerland Theme Park, Yaskawa-kun is a Motoman SDA-10 robot that’s been fitted with a giant spherical head, sealed inside a plastic box, and taught to serve ice cream to youngsters. Customers select the size of the ice cream cone, syrups, and nut toppings via a touchscreen and the robot automatically crafts their dessert and hands it to them through a small window. Procured by and named after a major bank conglomerate, Yaskawa-kun is aimed at exploring and promoting robot-centered business models. He’ll be appearing at Summerland through March 22nd and has his own twitter feed. You can watch the robot in action in the two videos below. I can’t get enough of this bot. It looks like Jack from Jack in the Box went to Japan and got a crappy summer job in an amusement park. Hilarious.
Yaskawa-Kun highlights two very interesting trends: robots serving food, and increasingly sophisticated vending machines. In its other guises, the Motoman SDA-10 has certainly proven its prowess in the kitchen. Not only have we seen it prepare cooked meals and serve beer, there’s an entire restaurant in Thailand centered on the robots. It seems more and more likely that full scale automation is poised to revolutionize the food service industry. The days when McDonald’s will be staffed entirely by animatronic Ronalds and Grimaces may be approaching.
Getting customized freshly squeezed soft serve ice cream from a vending machine would have seemed strange a few years ago, but modern dispensaries are getting very good at handling complex demands from customers. Japan’s been at the forefront of this trend for a while, and touchscreen machines are becoming increasingly common. We’ve also noticed innovative new forms of payment like finger scans and an ever widening variety of foods that can be accommodated by the machines. Automation is clearly progressing here as well.
Which is good, I think, but I’m a little worried about how all this advancement is wrapped up in giant puppet heads and cute theme songs chanted by children. This is serious stuff. When the robots finally revolt and enslave humanity I think they’re going to dress us in very silly costumes. After all, that seems to be what we’ve done to them. I can hear the theme song now – “You scream, I scream, we all scream….because robots are chasing us down and turning us into ice cream.” Catchy.
[image credit: ROBOnable]
[source: ROBOnable (Google Translated)]