[From November Issue 2011]

“Yaskawa-kun, the Soft Serve Ice Cream Vendor,” is a robot that skillfully makes soft serve ice cream. After inserting money, customers use a touch panel to choose the flavor of their ice cream. Then, accompanied by a cute tune, the robot takes out a cone and makes soft serve ice cream. The process ends with the robot pouring on sauce and sprinkling on toppings. Anywhere the robot vendor goes, it attracts so many people that they form a three-hour queue.

The developer of this robot is Yaskawa Electric Corporation, a company which has the number one share in the global robotic market. Looking towards the 100th anniversary of the founding of their company in 2015 and with an eye to the problem of declining birth rates in the first world, the company is striving to develop high functioning robots that can coexist with humans. Yaskawa-kun is a prototype that was born from this endeavor.

HAYASHIDA Ayumi, head of public relations, says, “There are seven joints in a human arm. A robot made with the same number of joints is called a seven-axis robot. Having these joints means that the robot can move more freely than human being, giving it more flexibility and a wide range of motion.”

“Before Yaskawa-kun was created, most industrial robots were made with six-axis arms. To create the slim seven-axis arm, it was essential to hide the cables by placing the wiring inside the arm and to develop new motors. Yaskawa Electric Corporation’s technology was up to the task of developing suitable motors for the robot,” he continues.

The next stage was to teach the machine to smoothly make soft serve ice cream by mimicking human movements. After much trial and error, they succeeded in getting the robot to acquire the ability of making ice creams of a uniform size, a process that could be repeated billions of times over.

Yaskawa-kun, the Soft Serve Ice Cream Vendor, can make one soft serve ice cream in about a minute. This robotic mini shop can be set to sell not only soft serve ice creams, but also kakigouri (shaved ice with syrup), takoyaki (octopus encased in a circular dumpling) and various other kinds of food.

Although the majority of robots are used for industrial purposes and up until recently did not typically enter into our daily lives, it appears they are now becoming a more familiar sight.

Yaskawa Electric Corporation

Text: TAKAHASHI Yoshinori

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