Top Chef: Robot Edition

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In the future – and in some areas now – robots may prepare your food.

Robots in Restaurants

Silicon Valley is teeming with robotic restaurants. Zume, a pizza delivery company, uses robots that press dough to the perfect thickness and spread precise amounts of sauce quicker and more consistently than a human. Creator, a burger joint, cooks and assembles custom orders by a conveyor-like robot. Spyce, a Boston restaurant, features a fully robotic kitchen that cooks custom rice bowls. And robots are the rage in China where they cook bowls of ramen in 90 seconds, slice noodles at 150 pieces a minute and serve food to guests as novelty waiters.

The future may bring automated coffee and smoothie joints located in airports, college campuses, and offices. Your favorite bar may one day have its very own robotic bartender.

However, debates abound of the consequences of cheap robotic labor. Where will humans work if robots take over?

Zume still employs human delivery drivers. At Creator, human staff prepare sides, such as fries, take orders, monitor the machine and clean the restaurant. Spyce uses human greeters that show customers how to order at the kiosk. And even though a robot prepares the meal, bowls are garnished and delivered by human hands. One argument for the use of robots in the food service industry is the opportunity for human workers to perform more interactive and less monotonous tasks. There’s a safety argument as well – keeping workers away from hazards such as hot ovens, open flames and sharp knives.

And as the possibilities for robotic restaurants increase, the robotic home kitchen is taking off, too.

Robots in the Home Kitchen

In Europe, Moley is set to launch their robotic kitchen that can cook over 100 different chef-approved meals and clean up after itself. India has its own robotic kitchen helper on the way, though it’s not as flashy and only twice the size of a microwave. Closer to home, Samsung is developing a pair of robotic arms to work side-by-side with humans in the kitchen.

An increasing number of Americans don’t like to cook, and our busy schedules tend toward eating out or grabbing fast food more than cooking at home. The appeal of a robotic kitchen is quick, nutritious chef-designed meals that require little human effort and come at a fraction of the price from a gourmet restaurant.

So, will robots change the way we eat? As the demand for convenience rises and technology continues to advance, the future of robot-featured dining might not be far away.