If you're tired of those creepy Boston Dynamics robots shooting things, then check out these nice, icecream-serving robots at Melbourne retail startup Niska.

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The worst they can do is refuse to be sweet-talked into giving you a free scoop.

Or, maybe, take your job. The Niska setup involves customers placing an order via kiosk, then three robots - "Pepper", "Eka" and "Tony" working to scoop the order then apply toppings.


A clip (below) appears to show a human-free process, but Niska owner Kate Orlova says "Robots can't replace human beings. But what robots are good at doing is repetitive tasks, such as scooping ice cream. This frees up staff to focus on customer service while the ice cream is being served."

Orlova says, "For us, ice-cream is just the beginning. We're looking to expand the robotics into other areas of retail. The future is here, and it is exciting."

None of the parties wanted to talk about the cost of the fitout.

But going by hey-wow social media posts, the Niska Ice Cream Bar in the Federation Square seems to be working as advertised.

Victoria state government Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade, Martin Pakula called it a "real feather in the cap for Victorian innovation".

"There is amazing work going on here in areas like robotics and artificial intelligence – and the ice-cream's also pretty good," he said.

It's not all Aussie ingenuity, however. The Niska robots - built by Sweden's ABB - are brought to life, in part, by software created by Auckland's Phosphor, a 25-year veteran of kiosk software.

What's next for Phosphor?


"Phosphor is working on a few on-location self-service projects with integration and purchase. One of them is for Fullers Ferries, and will go live at the end of November, as part of the redevelopment of the downtown waterfront," a spokeswoman told the Herald.

Think more kiosks than robots, however.

"The Fullers project is essentially a very large interactive touch screen for customers to use to buy their tickets with," the spokeswoman said.

The Niska Ice Cream Bar in Melbourne, featuring robots built by Sweden's ABB run by software developed by Auckland's Phosphor. Photo / Supplied
The Niska Ice Cream Bar in Melbourne, featuring robots built by Sweden's ABB run by software developed by Auckland's Phosphor. Photo / Supplied

For Niska, Phosphor's team were involved in all aspects of the hardware selection for the point-of-sale solution, ensuring all orders, payments, communications, speed of transactions and touchscreen interfaces worked for customers from across the globe – whether it be their first or fifth time at Niska.

Cath Sample, Phosphor's co-founder and director, says the company is excited to have its work recognised on an international scale, especially alongside innovative teams like Niska. "We've been in the business of creating innovative solutions for clients for 25 years, and it's fantastic to see our efforts manifest in such an exciting, consumer-facing way."

For their part in the Niska project, Phosphor has won the 2019 Umbraco Jury's Choice Award, an international award that celebrates the best in innovation and technology. The judges of these awards named Phosphor's entry as innovative, intriguing and named it a true stand-out project.