Apr 5, 2017 | By Tess

Not sure what to have for lunch? How about a salad, expertly assembled and tossed by a robot named Sally? The food-making robot, developed by “robots for restaurants” startup Chowbotics, is the latest in automated cuisine coming out of Silicon Valley.

Surprisingly, this is not the first salad-making robot we’ve encountered, though it is immeasurably better than its jokey counterpart. The machine, which resembles a sort of 3D printer/coffee dispenser hybrid, is designed to make a variety of fresh salads, with scientifically perfect proportions. Sally the salad robot houses 21 ingredients, such as romaine, kale, cherry tomatoes, olives, grilled chicken, cheese, and more, and is capable of making over one thousand different salad combinations, each in a minute or so.

Sally is the latest food-service robot to come from Chowbotics, a startup based in San Jose (CA) that is hoping to make an impact with its automated, tech-inspired food-making machines. The company, founded by Deepak Sekar, has gained a lot of attention recently, even securing $6.3 million in funding from various venture capital firms such as the Foundry Group, which has ties to Fitbit, Sphero, and 3D printer company Makerbot.

Chowbotics’ 350-pound salad robot is not only capable of assembling salads, however. It can help users control calorie intake by letting them know exactly how many calories are going into their salads—a notable advantage over salad bars. Its creators also say that Sally is more hygienic than self-service salad bars or even restaurant kitchens, where many people come into contact with the food you are eating.

Still, Sally still requires some human help, namely to chop the salad ingredients before they are put into the robot for the day. “Sally is the next generation of salad restaurant,” said Sekar. “I've always believed that cooking is fun. But during the week, life is so rushed between work and family. When I looked at time I spent cooking, 85 per cent was spent doing repetitive tasks, like chopping. I wanted to do something else with that time.”

At present, the salad-making robot is listed for $30,000, but will also be available to businesses for a monthly lease of about $500 a month. According to the company, Sally will make her public debut on April 13 in San Francisco (at Galvanize, a co-working space), and then this spring at Mama Mia’s, a restaurant in Silicon Valley, and H-E-B Grocery Co., a corporate cafeteria in Texas. Pre-orders for the food service robot will be fulfilled by Chowbotics as soon as the third quarter.

Sally is being targeted at a wide variety of venues, including hotels, airports, convention centers, gyms, and even existing food chains like McDonalds. As Sekar suggested, “If a location installs Sally, they'll have a thousand kinds of salad, using fresh ingredients, while their kids are eating Big Macs and fries.”

(Images: Kristen Loken | Chowbotics)

Taking off from the Sally salad robot, Chowbotics is now also planning on developing different kinds of food-making robots which will be geared towards various ethnic cuisines. In fact, one of the first robots Sekar built was designed to prepare Indian dishes, such as fried cauliflower. “The machine I created for Indian cooking looked like a modified 3D printer," explained Sekar. "But instead of plastic shapes, it was making food."

Recently, Chowbotics also brought on Charlie Ayers (Google’s original chef) to be its executive chef. Ayers, who is well versed in cooking for huge groups, thinks that food service robots are going to be the future of food prep. When asked about how they would affect kitchen jobs for humans, he didn’t seem too concerned, stating that automation is taking hold across most industries and that “you can either fight it, or be on the team that makes it happen.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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I.AM.Magic wrote at 4/6/2017 7:43:56 AM:

By "salad", they mean "chopped vegetables" right? where do they store all the fresh food?

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