Robot Invasion of College Campuses Expands to Smoothies
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
- Blendid has created autonomous, artificial intelligence-powered robots that can make personalized smoothies.
- The company has partnered with several college campuses to bring healthy food options to students, available at any time.
- The most recent campuses to have Blendid kiosks include UCLA and two California community colleges.
Scientists and business leaders continue to turn to hungry college students to test new innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).
West Valley College in Saratoga, California, and Mission College in Santa Clara, California, are the latest schools to bring robots to campus to serve students. They've each partnered with Blendid, an autonomous robotic food kiosk company, to offer on-demand, contactless smoothies to students via robotics and AI.
"We wanted to create food that you like, prepared the way you like it, any time of the day, anywhere you are," Vipin Jain, co-founder and CEO of Blendid, told BestColleges. "Food is such a basic necessity and … you should get what you like, and it should be perfect every time."
Smoothies are the perfect food to pair with robotics and AI because they are easy for students to enjoy on the go, yet complex enough that consumers benefit from automating the process of making them, Jain said.
"We have to develop technology that was sophisticated enough to have different types of ingredients and then create something which had to be perfect in taste and texture," he said. "So it had all the right elements for us to build a platform for food automation and use that to automate smoothies."
Since its commercial launch, the company has blended up over 150,000 smoothies. Kiosks can be found in Georgia at Kennesaw State University and Georgia College in early 2022, followed closely by a kiosk at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) over the summer that same year.
The kiosks are available seven days a week and can make up to nine smoothies at the same time, and up to 45 unique drinks in one hour, according to the company. Students can preorder their drinks on the Blendid app and set their preferred pickup time.
Students love Blendid smoothies, Jain said.
"Part of it is because this is the kind of food that they have all the control of and … they can customize any recipe to their taste, allergies, and nutrition needs," he said. "They can also schedule and say 'I want my food ready at 2:35 p.m., that's when I'll be in between my classes,' and the robot will start at 2:31 p.m. so you get it fresh in your hand."
Engaging the Campus Community
For West Valley and Mission colleges, Jain said the administration wanted a food option that was right for their environment: high-quality at an affordable price that was readily available to students.
"From that time your campus center opens … until the time the campus center closes, this is the only way you can offer fresh food options anytime during the day," he said.
In the case of Mission College, Jain hopes to work with several programs, including Hospitality Management, to bring students into the Blendid process.
"This is an area where we want to actually work with the college, where we want to get the culinary school to create some new recipes," he said.
"These are all ingredients the robot can handle: What can you do with it? What kind of delicious option can you create? And maybe have a contest and have the winners name the recipes, and they can be up on the menu board."
Students who engage with Blendid machines are also likely to apply for internships with the company, and, according to Jain, many full-time employees started off as interns.
"You can engage engineering and technology departments from a college. You can engage the art school. You can engage the culinary school and create a very cohesive environment where there is a back-and-forth between technology and other aspects of the college experience. That is something we are very excited about," he said.