Robots that prepare hamburgers in just 10 seconds, vending machines that cook five types of burritos in an instant...Science fiction?
As science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov predicted a half a century ago, the kitchens of the future “will prepare ‘automeals’, heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, grilling bacon, and so on”. This is an excerpt from the essay that he wrote for The New York Times in which he gave his predictions about what a hypothetical World’s Fair would be like fifty years later. And he wasn’t too far off. “What will life be like, say, in 2014 A.D., 50 years from now? What is to come, through the fair’s eyes at least, is wonderful. I don’t know, but I can guess”, he said.
Much more than what Asimov imagined is reality in our day-to-day lives. Robots that prepare deluxe hamburgers instantly, vending machines that prepare delicious burritos to order, restaurants with robotic staff…All of this isn’t taken from a science-fiction film from George Lucas or the Sony Animation factory; they are inventions that are already out there and that are making our lives even easier, if that’s possible.
The RoboBurgerBoy is the latest in robotics for the restaurant industry. San Francisco robotics company Momentum Machines developed this machine, which can prepare hamburgers in 10 seconds, or in other words, 360 hamburgers an hour! Yes, you read that right. A deluxe hamburger served “just out of the oven”. Toasting bread, preparing the meat, cutting the vegetables, putting the right quantities of each ingredient…the RoboBurgerBoy does it all.
This real-life Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR from the movie ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’) has a series of tubes that holds each one of the ingredients of a complete burger. The machine will be installed in restaurants, stores, food trucks, airports and even vending machines.
The team is already working on the next model, which will personalise the burgers even more, because it will be able to mix different meats and use new cooking techniques that are out of reach of fast-food restaurants.
Along this same line, we can’t forget the Burrito Box, a vending machine that is already being used by everyone who passes through a service station in Santa Monica, California. The Burrito Box dispenses five different varieties of delicious burritos.
What makes the Burrito Box different from other vending machines is the preparation, because it makes the burrito when the consumer presses the button. The meat is steamed using a patented mechanism, which means that the product comes out juicy and is a far cry from reheated dishes. As with the RoboBurgerBoy, the developers of this machine say that they use quality products: fresh meat, organic vegetable products…. And all in just 60 seconds and for 2 euros!
And of course in Japan and China, restaurants are being transformed by new technologies. They are saying goodbye to flesh-and-bone staff and hello to robotic precision. This melding of food and technology has helped lower restaurant prices, which have replaced a large part of their workers with smart machines that are in charge of preparing and adding the final touches to the oriental dishes.
One clear example of this is the Chef Cui robot cook, which is programmed to slice noodles, a food that is in high demand in Asian countries. Chef Cui does two things: slice and empty the noodles into a bowl of water, and it also has coloured lights, although we’re not sure why. Also, a year ago China opened a a restaurant with 20 robots as waiters and waitresses. The restaurant has robots ready to cook Chinese dumplings, make noodles, fry vegetables, deliver the food orders, carry the food and drink menu and greet guests, among other things. Pure magic!
Little by little, robots are invading the restaurant industry and are replacing professional workers, such as cooks, waiters, kitchen helpers, etc. You could say that we’re in a time of change, in which a new business model that democratises fast, quality food is under construction. What will kitchens be like in 2064? We hope that someone is willing to venture a guess, so that in 50 years, our children and grandchildren will be able to see just how right, or crazy, we were.