SoftBank’s food serving robot to revive restaurants

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The robot has layers of trays and is equipped with 3D cameras and Lidar sensors for navigation.

The Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp has partnered with California-based Bear Robotics to develop a robot named ‘Servi’ for the food service and hospitality industry. 

The robot is developed to resolve the struggle of Japan’s restaurants with labor shortage and the need for maintaining social distancing due to the pandemic.

SoftBank said that the robot, which has layers of trays and is equipped with 3D cameras and Lidar sensors for navigation, will be made available for the public from January 2021.

Servi has functions for services like bussing, drink delivery and patrol mode. This will allow restaurant owners to expand their operating efficiency as well as to boost their service quality. The developers say that the cost of the robot will be about $950 per month excluding tax on a three-year plan.

The launch indicates SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son’s shift from his earlier interest in humanoid robots, which has a body shape built to resemble the human body.

The Japanese conglomerate has a long history of taking overseas technology to Japan and currently, about 35,000 SoftBank robots including Pepper, NAO and Whiz are being used in more than 70 nations around the globe which serves in various industries including healthcare, finance, education, facilities management and cleaning.

Developers say that Servi has already been tested by operators like Japanese retail group Seven & i Holdings as the sector is struggling with the labor shortage.

Though Pepper, which was the world’s first social humanoid robot, gave SoftBank huge recognition in the market since its launch in 2014, it failed to find a global customer base. Recently, the robot has been improvised to identify people without masks and remind them to wear it making it relevant in the pandemic times. SoftBank now claims that Pepper can also be used in thermal sensing to monitor customers.

SoftBank is currently marketing the use of Whiz, the automatic cleaning robot as a pandemic precautionary measure.