Softbank and Keenon Robotics to build robot servers • The Register

SoftBank Robotics (SBRG) and Chinese company Keenon Robotics are teaming up to make robot servers the standard in Japan and Singapore, the two companies said Monday.

Or “SBRG and Keenon Robotics will work together to expand the use of robotic systems in the service industry that will enable greater efficiency and productivity,” as the pair said in a canned statement.

While robots aren’t a complete replacement for staff, the machines – which can apparently deliver up to four dishes at a time – will help their humans prepare food, freeing up staff to focus on customer service, insisted the duo.

As part of the partnership, Keenon will provide the hardware, the Keenbot, which has obstacle avoidance capabilities and other features to survive the dining room, it is claimed. SoftBank will provide a cloud computing infrastructure to organize and control the gadgets. Its Vision Fund 2 also recently invested in Keenon.

The duo already have two major customers on board, we’re told: food delivery service super-app Uber-esque Grab, and Tong Lok Group, a group of restaurants with locations in five South Asian countries. -East. Both are based in Singapore, a targeted area due to the city-state’s Smart Nation initiative that promotes IoT, automation, and interoperability across all lifestyles, including food and drink. , cleaning, hospitality, security, healthcare, logistics, etc.

The Keenon server robot

You got a snail … what is one of those bot servers supposed to look like? Source: Keenon Robotics

Japan is also a target market, with the company next eyeing the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Grab and Tung Lok Group plan to use the robots differently. Tung Lok CEO Andrew Tijoe said his company will deploy the machines in restaurants to tackle labor shortages.

Grab will use the technology in its so-called cloud kitchen, a space in which food is prepared for delivery through its app, to deliver kitchen orders to the delivery driver. There is potential for further use as Grab’s cloud kitchen also has a small food court, allowing instead to act as a food court as well. The super-app maker also plans to open 10 more cloud kitchens in the second half of 2021.

“We look forward to improving the agility of our operations and reducing repetitive and manual processes using robots. The robots will also allow us to better protect the well-being of our Grabbers with the reduction of physical touch points, ”said Yee Wee Tang, director of Grab, in a statement.

Less physical contact indeed facilitates social distancing, which is necessary in today’s COVID world. But another very real effect of the coronavirus has been a labor shortage in the restaurant industry, the reason varying by location as each country handles the bio-villain differently.

In the United States, all kinds of effects have led to a shortage, from crackdowns on immigrant workers to some Americans who just don’t want to return to work for various reasons. According to the Straits Times, border closures and tighter foreign employment laws have resulted in a 20-30% shortage of catering staff in Singapore.

The use of automation in this case corresponds to a recent study which found that business adoption of robots and other forms of automation is largely due to labor shortages, and in particular the aging populations, a demographic challenge that both Singapore and Japan face.

In the past, Keenon robots have been deployed for restaurants, hotels, hospitals, government offices, senior care facilities, banks, and airports. But Keenon isn’t the only one in the business. Last April, South Korea Telecom (SKT) partnered with Yongin Severance Hospital to market and deploy roaming robots that minimize the need for face-to-face contact, thereby promoting reduced transmission of COVID. ®

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