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The Bots are Here!

We aren’t really far away from the following situation:

It’s the end of a delicious dinner. You are super satisfied with the meal and want to appreciate the chef personally for his services. You ask to meet the chef and are greeted by a handshake from metal hands and sensor-filled fingers. Your meal was prepared completely by a robot.

What could have been a great plot for a sci-fi movie a few years ago is not very far from becoming a norm. Read on, to know more about this!

The food industry is huge; after all, nobody can sustain without getting their daily dose of sustenance. Initially, robots were used to perform repetitive chores, like cutting, packaging, sorting, cleaning, tidying, and so on. But the idea of trusting a robot to dish up something that people could consume without second thoughts seemed like an idea that required quite a bit of thought. Also, a robot performs mechanized tasks. How can individual customers’ preferences be considered while preparing a meal? For example; If a customer wants his meal to be a little less spicy than how it is usually supposed to be, he would not be able to receive the food in line with his specific requests. And this would not be a sustainable model for a restaurant in the long run.

These thoughts and concerns have been acted upon by a London-based food robotics startup – Karakuri. Karakuri in Japanese stands for puppets that perform mechanized tasks.

This start-up aims to create a robotic solution for portion-controlled mass food production, taking into consideration customer’s specific requirements, for fast-food restaurants. One such product of this venture is DK-One, which is a machine that can rustle up close to 6-12 meals at a time depending on the complexity and close to 100 bowls an hour. Typical meal serving time, from start to order collection is three minutes, with a typical output of one dish every 36 seconds.

DK-One is a 2m X 2m kiosk that has several shafts and racks to hold ingredients. It is ideal for quick service restaurants (fast-food chains) where the ingredients are already available, and the constituents just have to be assembled to prepare the final product. It was founded by Barney Wragg, Simon Watt, and Brent Hoberman and has closed £13.5m funding including investments from Ocado, Hoxton Ventures, firstminute capital, Taylor Brothers, and the Future Fund.

Once an order is placed either through a mobile app or an accompanying tablet, an articulating arm inside the DK-One grabs a container, fills it with the necessary ingredients, and deposits the finished meal into a cubby for pickup. While placing the order, there is a provision to provide details of customization required, which will be taken into account while the meal is prepared. DK-One cannot cook food by itself but can be used to dish up fast food that requires more assembling than cooking.

And being so accurate, it reduces food waste and provides real-time data on ingredients. The thin margins restaurateurs typically have could be improved by using such a robot in repetitive tasks, which means employees can be tasked with more complex, fruitful, and fulfilling work. It can also be easily integrated into existing commercial kitchens.

Propelled by an intricate system of AI, sensors, and systems, this is the closest that we have right now to automated tailor-made food services that require zero human intervention. The services we have had till now either require human interference for specific ingredient ratio incorporation or they can’t provide personalization. Thus, we can safely say this indeed sets precedence for the beginning of a new food revolution!

You can see DK-One in action in this video:


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