The future has arrived at Federation Square – and thanks to Niska Robotic Ice Cream Bar, it’s delicious!
From the moment Maria first sparked to life in Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent classic, Metropolis, humans have been obsessed with robots and the potential of artificial intelligence to affect change in our lives. Whether they’re finding their humanity, or finding adventure in a galaxy far, far away, robots have been a mainstay of entertainment and art for over a century. And now, the future has arrived at Federation Square. In the form of Niska Robotic Ice Cream Bar complete with chocolate sauce and a bow tie.
Meet the staff of Niska Robotic Ice Cream Bar. There’s Pepper, she’s polite, friendly, and always up for a chat. Eka is careful to rinse off the scoop in between flavours. Tony will ring the bell to announce “order up!”. They’re all complex machines at the forefront of robotics, designed to tackle specific tasks with precision and efficiency.
The team behind Niska hope that the ice cream bar will showcase the possibility of robots in a retail environment and beyond, and the ability of robots to work collaboratively alongside human workers – rather than replace them. For Niska, Federation Square was the ideal location for their first Australian robotic retail space – a meeting place for people from all over greater Melbourne and Victoria to experience the future of technology as something that is attainable, workable, and fun.
Speaking of fun, Pepper – a humanoid robot who’s strengths lay in human interaction and creating an emotional connection – loves to dance and is always up for a selfie. Being the customer service specialist that she is, she’ll help you place your order through the touch screen display. Visitors can choose from 16 flavours of locally produced, artisanal ice cream and gelato and various toppings and sauces. Play it safe with old favourites like chocolate and strawberry, or be bold and try out the matcha or black sesame. Whatever you decide, you won’t be disappointed.
Once you’ve placed your order with Pepper, Eka takes over. Eka is a single arm, collaborative robot who specialises in extreme accuracy with strength and elegance of movement. While that accuracy certainly comes in handy when scooping ice cream, Eka is capable of much more complex activities, including medical applications and industrial assembly. When all the scoops are scooped, Eka hands over to Tony to finish your dish. Tony is also a collaborative robot, but he is designed to work precisely on delicate tasks – in this case, pouring melted chocolate or carefully sprinkling toppings. Tony isn’t just a precise worker, he’s also a snappy dresser with a self-confessed passion for fashion and the finer things in life. Dressed in a smart shirt complete with bow tie, Tony admits he spends his downtime listening to vintage records on his turntable. How very Melbourne, Tony.
Whether Pepper, Eka, and Tony dream of electric sheep is yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure: The Niska Robotic Ice Cream Bar really is a one-of-a-kind experience and, whether you’ve got kids in tow or are just a big kid yourself, there really is a special kind of thrill to visiting and seeing the future here, now.