Rosie Jetson may be the most famous fictional domestic and kitchen robot of all time, but her real-world counterparts are busy serving everything from chef-prepared meals to pizza and burgers at local restaurants. In fact, robots already have a hand in several areas of the food industry, from supply and delivery to cooking support in restaurant kitchens.
Here's an overview of some of the robots already hard at work across the food industry, from industrial kitchens to the in-home personal cooking robot.
The robots working in the food industry are truly versatile and currently involved in everything from providing hospitality and front-of-house services to aiding their human counterparts in the prepping and cooking of meals. On top of improving speed and efficiency, they're also lowering costs and filling in gaps in the human labor force. Cooking robots in restaurant kitchens can improve safety, as well.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the food industry to adapt to new safety protocols, the role that robots can play in enhancing productivity and efficiency in the kitchen — from a business perspective — is becoming more and more apparent. According to Buck Jordan of Miso Robotics, "Since the pandemic, the potential for this technology and also the demand for it has increased exponentially."
What do you get when you combine AI with fast food prep? Well, what you won't get is undercooked burgers. Miso Robotics' Flippy and CookRight software provide human cooks the software they need to avoid common human errors like over- or under-cooking food, especially meat and poultry products that can make people sick.
Spyce restaurant is a fast, casual restaurant in Boston, Mass. with a fully robotic kitchen that prepares food in three minutes or less. Restaurant robots operate the automated kitchen except for one human known as the "garnish employee" who adds toppings to the dishes. Founded by a team of MIT engineers, Spyce's Culinary Director is Michelen-starred chef Daniel Boulud, who said, "I discovered that the robotic kitchen brings precision, consistency, taste, and also freshness to the preparation."
Known as the "burger bot," Creator is an AI system that handles everything from cooking the burgers and dispensing the buns to doling out the perfect amount of sauce and garnishes. Creator's founder, CEO of Momentum Machines Alex Vardakostas, grew up flipping burgers in his parents' restaurant. Rather than replacing human food service workers, his goal is to facilitate the repetitive tasks so his employees can work on more fulfilling and creatively rewarding tasks.
The robotic paellero is actually a stove mounted robotic arm that does the heavy lifting — or rather stirring — involved in making a classic Spanish paella. While some chefs are up in arms over the prospect of being replaced by robotic arms, br5 (the company behind the design) founder Enrique Lillo broke it down for The Guardian.“At the end of the day, it’s an assistant. It’s elevating human capacity.”
Unlike restaurant-based robots, domestic robots are still in the development and ideation stages and not widely available for consumer purchase. Yet. But here are a few promising contenders on the horizon:
Robot enthusiasts and builders eventually won't have to wait for the market to create the perfect home chef robot. There are several DIY cooking robot concepts in various stages of development for a future robot that might bake cupcakes, cook the perfect egg, or whip up a bowl of spaghetti:
Some of these projects may still need refinement, or are simply funny concepts rather than actual ''cooking'' robots! Nevertheless, it's really interesting to watch these YouTubers' videos!
It depends on who you ask. While some argue that the human experience and touch is a critical and irreplaceable element in cooking and enjoying a good meal, others see human/robotic kitchen partnerships as the wave of the future. As Jamie Richardson of White Castle said: "It's actually something we don't view as a replacement for workers. We look at it as an empowerment for the team because it helps us free up our heart for hospitality."
So what do you think? Are you ready for Rosie Jetson to prepare your meals? Want to try your hand at a DIY cooking robot? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or on the community site to stay up to date with the latest news in the field!