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The Food Robots of the Future

A CES talk goes into how restaurants, take-out, farming and more will be impacted by robotics

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Everyone wants to know where the household robot is that will wash your dishes for you – and put them away properly. While that’s still in the works, what technology has to offer now is robots that do the menial tasks in cooking and farming, leaving more time and space for creativity and skill. 

A CES talk titled, “Welcome to Our Food Robot Future” explored how automation and robots change how we make, cook and deliver food. Moderated by Michael Wolf of the Spoon, panelists included Juan Higueros of Bear Robotics, Suma Reddy of Future Acres, Clayton Wood of Picnic and Andy Lin of Yo-Kai Express Inc

Revolutionizing Eating Out

Anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows the exhausting work of bussing tables. Higueros once tracked the number of steps waiters and waitresses took in his restaurant on a daily basis and calculated an average number of 10,000-15,000 steps, or the equivalent of 4 – 6 miles. All of that walking leaves less time for friendly chatter with customers and more time for mistakes and overall exhaustion.

Enter Bear Robotics, which has a robot called Servi that does most of the bussing for the staff. It can’t take orders down, but it can carry drinks, food and empty plates back and forth. This saves time and energy for the wait staff, as well as cuts down the number of staff a restaurant might need (hello labor shortage.) 

Especially during pandemic times, a non-human waiter cuts down on the proximity of people and creates a safer environment when necessary. There are also opportunities for Servi to bring takeout to cars for an almost completely non-contact experience.

The Fast Food of the Future

Restaurants are changing in some fashion, but people are still demanding quick – and preferably healthy – meals that they can grab on the go. Yo-Kai Express is making that possible with its autonomous restaurants. Inspired by the urban legend ‘Yo-Kai,’ a mythical creature of whom can pop up anywhere at anytime, the Yo Kai Express offers 24/7 access to a well-prepared gourmet meal thanks for its interior robotic technology.

“We particularly have been getting great feedback from TSA agents or other people that work late at night,” said Lin. “When all of the restaurants are closed, they can still get a nice meal when they are working in the middle of the night from a Yo-Ka Express.”

Other companies have been considering similar models, making the McDonalds of the future look less like a brick-and-mortar restaurant full of plastic chairs and kid’s drawings and more like a classy vending machine.

Changing Distribution and Gathering

Nothing will change the restaurant industry for the better if we can’t solve the issues behind food distribution and agriculture. According to Reddy, labor represents up to 50 percent of the cost of all agricultural products in the U.S. Thirty percent of this cost is spent moving cross across acres, which can instead by done by a robot like Carry, a fully autonomous robotic harvest companion. Carry finds the row, goes to the picker, and waits for the crop to be loaded. Carry then transports the payload out of the row to its destination. While still a prototype, this technology has the ability to truly help farms optimize production and cut down on waste – one of food’s biggest issues of all.