Snackbot! -- A Social, Snack-Fetching Robot Emerges from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

Back in May 2008 it was announced that CMU professors Sara Kiesler and Jodi Forlizzi (from the HCI Institute) and Paul Rybski (from the Robotics Institute) were awarded $500k in Microsoft's Human-Robot Interaction funding to develop a social, snack-selling robot to traverse Newell-Simon and Wean halls (press release).  After seeing a prototype appear on Flickr in July, we've all been waiting patiently to see pictures of the final version.  Well, the wait is over -- photos of the new CMU snackbot, conceptual designs, and construction photos are contained below!  It appears that the CMU team is progressing nicely.

The latest incarnation of Snackbot and team is shown below (from Flickr: here and here).

CMU Snackbot (The Snack-Fetching Robot)   CMU Snackbot (The Snack-Fetching Robot) and Team

As I mentioned, the early prototype was on Flickr back in July, as was a foam mockup of the newer revision.  The latest realization is clearly far superior.

CMU Snackbot (The Snack-Fetching Robot) Early Prototype  CMU Snackbot Foam Mockup

In addition, tantalizing pictures of design, as well as build photos, have appeared on industrial designer, Erik Glaser's, homepage!

CMU Snackbot (The Snack-Fetching Robot)   CMU Snackbot Paint Job

The design looks quite professional; it reaffirms my appreciation for industrial designers.  You can also see the custom paint-job being applied to the robot's exterior.  From Erik:

We crafted a full-scale blue foam model, from which fiberglass molds were created. Outlaw Performance, located outside Pittsburgh, then proceeded to lay up the fiberglass shells. We also designed the internal skeleton and are in the process of assembling the robot and installing its internal electronics. Once these additional 4 shells and skeletons are complete (we are selling two of these robots to Stanford University) the shells will be painted by an autobody shop according to our designs. 

I think we can also begin to make estimates of hardware costs -- from the images, one can clearly see the SICK laser rangefinder mounted atop a Pioneer.  Again, I'm always impressed with the skills of industrial designers to make robots look great -- the designers made several early (and impressive) design sketches.

CMU Snackbot Conceptual Drawing   CMU Snackbot Conceptual Drawing

CMU Snackbot Conceptual Drawing

While we can appreciate the attractive artists' renditions, us robot-folks are all about the robot body parts strewn about the lab.

CMU Snackbot Construction: Adding the Head   CMU Snackbot Construction: Arm and Head  CMU Snackbot Construction: Lots of Parts

CMU Snackbot Construction: Heads Close-Up  CMU Snackbot Construction: Torsos Close-Up CMU Snackbot Construction: Parts Painted  


CMU Snackbot Construction: Parts Laid Out


Can anyone weigh in on when Snackbot is expected to be operational?



The Stanford version of the Snackbot will be fully operational in early-mid January.  We are still working out a number of tweaks on the CMU Snackbot, which is more complex internally and externally.  I will be uploading pictures to my website as we progress, stay tuned for updates.

Hey Erik,

Thanks for the head's up.  I'll keep my eyes open, and I hope to see videos soon.


—Travis Deyle

I see that Snackbot has had some major upgrades.  Of note:

  • Autonomous navigation capabilities
  • Speech synthesis with an light-up "mouth"
  • Speech recognition
  • Head pan-tilt articulation


Overall, the Snackbot project is progressing nicely.  I recommend watching the composite video of Snackbot's new upgrades produced by BotJunkie (below), or you can view the videos individually at the new Snackbot website,

—Travis Deyle
Ah, thanks for the heads up about these!  Loving the behind the scenes stuff.
Thanks for the heads-up on these "behind the scenes" photos! (linked back here)

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