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A Kiwi Campus delivery bot (R) sizes up a Bear Robotics robotic server. Photo: Kaveh Waddell/Axios
Edging beyond the gimmicky demos of years past, robot startups are mounting a play for the more than $5.7 trillion U.S. food industry, launching their products on farms, in grocery stores and restaurants, and all the way to your front step.
Kaveh writes: Most bots are still wildly expensive, which has kept them from mass deployment. But they're nudging open the door to the industry, and slowly accustoming people to letting robots take care of their food.
The big picture: In recent years, the food industry has fallen behind as others, like e-commerce players, have rushed to take up robots.
Now, big companies, some spurred by fear of Amazon's sweeping ambitions and robotics prowess, have started to buy them.
In total, $1.2 billion of venture capital flowed into grocery automation last year — about twice the 2017 number.
Robots are popping up across the industry:
For the moment, robots are largely filling a labor gap in the food industry. Fewer employees than ever are willing to work long, greasy shifts in fast-food kitchens, and Nguyen says grocery delivery services are losing their drivers to Uber and Lyft.
What's next: "The restaurant industry is very conservative, and [tech] adoption is low," said John Ha, CEO of Bear Robotics, which makes roving servers like the one pictured above. But Ha and others hope the industry will jump in all at once, if robots clearly prove their worth — like it did years ago with payment systems.
The bottom line: Despite restaurants' reticence, fast food in particular — where many tasks are designed to be simple and repetitive — is among the industries most likely to be automated, according to McKinsey.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty
Lawyers for six major hotel chains today asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by an online travel agency accusing them of colluding to stifle bidding for rooms.
What's happening: TravelPass Group accuses chains like Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott of squeezing small internet travel agencies out of the online market for room booking. The case comes as public pressure is mounting against the concentration of market power across industries, from technology to agriculture, airlines and banking.
How it's supposed to work: When you type words into your search engine — like, say, Hilton and Bahamas — an invisible bidding war takes place among hotels and agencies to fill your desire. Ads appear above and alongside your search.
In the hearing today, the hotels asked a judge to dismiss the suit, or to move it to another jurisdiction. Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott all declined to comment.
With Elbrus, Russia's new Arctic logistics ship. Photo: Lev Fedoseyev/TASS/Getty
Arctic melting has ignited a commercial and military race to capitalize on the suddenly open Northern Passage. Russia is well ahead. For instance, writes the NYT's Helene Cooper, here's how much competing countries are pulling from the Arctic in GDP, mainly in raw materials and shipping:
Russia: About 20% of its GDP
U.S.: Less than 1%
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The pay gap between bosses and workers (Andrew Edgecliff-Johnson - FT)
Musk and Bezos battle for your internet (Miriam Kramer - Axios)
Blue collar jobs: Big money, no debt (Michael Sasso - Bloomberg)
Pinkertons are ready for climate chaos (Noah Gallagher Shannon - NYT)
Growth of suburban poverty (Tanvi Misra - CityLab)
Rocking the look in New York. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty
The quirky tastes of Gen Z are bringing old — and nearly obsolete — clothing brands back.
Erica writes: The sports apparel brand Champion, which sells simple sweatshirts that feature its red and blue "C" logo, is having a big comeback, Bloomberg reports.
What's happening: In the age of Instagram marketing, a couple of snaps of Chance the Rapper, Beyonce or Kylie Jenner sporting a simple pair of sweatpants from a forgotten brand is enough to propel that company to success.