Low-Tech: Casters Added Mobility to Chowbotics’ Vending Machines

I write about the new wave of smart vending machines a lot. And when I do, it’s almost always in the context of a fixed installation. Airports or corporate campuses and the like can tuck vending machines away in an alcove or corner and just leave them there for customers to find. But what if those vending machines were made mobile using a basic piece of hardware you can find at any Home Depot?

During her talk at our ArticulATE food automation conference this week, Chowbotics/DoorDash Head of Marketing & Design, Mara Behrens, explained how some of Chowbotics’ Sally robots were made mobile by putting them on casters. By literally putting Sally on wheels, the vending machine could be moved around a building to where hungry people are throughout the day and night.

For instance, in a hospital a Sally could be easily moved around when a particular area is closed for the night. Or in an office building, a vending machine could be moved between floors to accommodate different worker shifts.

Throughout the day at ArticulATE, we had discussed drones whizzing across Ireland’s skies to drop off lattes at people’s homes, robots packed with groceries traversing sidewalks and autonomous robot cooks capable of creating hundreds of different dishes — all modern technological miracles. But this basic caster idea stuck with me because of its simplicity.

There are companies like Yo-Kai Express, which is making an autonomous vending machine for college campuses that can be hailed to come to your location. And Fanbot roams malls, fully stocked with snacks and drinks to sell. Those solutions are great and I look forward to using them some day! But they are also expensive to outfit and require a team of people to design and implement.

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