Coffee machines frequently found in airports and offices were not merely enough to replace a traditional canteen or even a hot dog stand waiting for hungry professionals after a long day’s work. Automatizing coffee -making seems relatively easy compared to cooking, whose complexity demanded human interference up until recently.
Developing robots for food service is exactly what Chowbotics, a robotics startup company, had in mind while picking its name. Chowbotics launched its first product, Sally the Salad Robot, which can make about 1.000 salads in approximately one-minute per salad, using 21 ingredients that change depending on what’s seasonally available. Chef Charlie Ayers, the first executive chef at Google, created a number of signature salads that customers can choose to order, but if they are not interested in a pre-planned option, they can customize their meal from the different ingredients offered.
Chowbotics’ CEO, Deepak Sekar, aims to provide quick, healthy meals to busy professionals while replacing greasy fast food options at least in part. Sally’s capabilities will soon be put to the test as he hopes to have 125 of the robots in tech offices in the San Francisco area by the end of 2017. The benefits of Sally are manifold, according to Sekar. “Sally is the next generation of salad restaurant,” he claims. For one thing, a robot can make salad faster than a human can. Also, you will know precisely how many calories your salad is delivering; there won’t be the problem of consuming one piled high with garnishes that turn out to be more fattening than a burger. And it’s more hygienic to have a machine prepare your salad than to have multiple people working on a line—or worse still, a serve-yourself salad bar. The ingredients are fresh and kept in refrigerated compartments—stored better than at many salad bars.
Sally does still need humans to help it operate. The robot gets its ingredients from canisters that need to be loaded and reloaded by hand. As it appears, chefs shall also be compelled to cope with machines like Sally, not to mention they are expected to cooperate with programmers in order to prepare and deliver a chef-curated signature meal. Although humans are needed to keep the machine up and running, the difference between two humans interacting about a lunch order and the interaction between a human and Sally is monumentally different. Sally is a testament to the age of automation. It signs that, in the very near future, we might be interacting with far more robots and far fewer people. Of course, there’s the millennial-oriented, ‘eat-o-tainment’ opportunity of watching a salad be assembled by a machine. But some might still miss a lunch break embellished with a little bit of old school chatting, even if the price for chat is slower service.