Australia’s first ever retail store staffed by robots

An ice-cream parlour at Melbourne’s federation square is staffed by three robots.

The robots are named Pepper, Eka and Tony.  Tony has two arms and a screen that appears as a “face”.  A team of ABB engineers worked to bring into reality a new retail experience for customers.

Robot serverThe process is simple.  It all starts with a touch screen.  The customer selects the number of scoops, chooses the flavours and toppings and the robots do the rest.

It’s just another example of robots serving up convenience.  Automation in the retail sector is nothing new.  E-commerce giant Amazon has been using robots to help with workflow for quite some time.  A “smart home” in Zurich was built mostly using 3D printers and robots.

So, should we be worried about robots eventually stealing our jobs?

A 2019 survey by recruitment agency Hays, found that 18% of Aussie workers have already had their job impacted significantly by robots, with their duties changing or their role becoming redundant.  Another 32% said their role had been impacted partially, with some tasks automated.

Adam Gregory from Linked-In says that automation and the ability to work with robots actually presents a huge opportunitiy for employers and employees… “Robots can take on the most mundane tasks, freeing up the workforce to do more creative and more complex work.  In fact, in industries like manufacturing, robots can take on the more high-risk tasks, thus providing a safer work environment.”

But in the future, it will be the robot’s biggest weakness that will be our biggest selling point… “soft skills” like communication, influence and problem solving.  Adam says that “In fact, 91%of HR professionals indicate that these “soft skills” will be the most in demand skills in the future”.

The company, Niska, is looking to extend robotic servers into other areas of retail.

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