Burger Flipping 'Bots Could One Day Become a Reality

This one is cooking plant-based meat

  • A new cooking robot controlled by an app can make vegan burgers.
  • The robot uses 3D-printing techniques to construct the food and is designed to minimize waste. 
  • Experts say that for now, at least, robots are likely to assist at restaurants rather than take chefs' jobs.


A meatless hamburger made by a robot.

SavorEat

Robot chefs are improving their cooking skills but don't expect them to replace humans for meal preparation anytime soon, experts say. 

SavorEat has unveiled a cooking robot that makes vegan burgers, which an app can control. The automaton, which is meant to be used by restaurants, customizes each patty based on your preferences. However, robots like the one introduced by SavorEat are still limited in their abilities. 

"The introduction and use of robots or automation were not meant to replace the human worker," Udi Shamai, the CEO of HYPER, an automated food company, told Lifewire in an email interview. "With technology and processes evolving, people will be able to shift their focus and transform their duties, elevating themselves from restaurant workers to AI designers and controllers. In the end, the goal is to shift workers into roles that showcase the best of their abilities while creating a more efficient and cost-effective solution that can help business owners while benefiting consumers."

No Humans or Animals Needed to Make These Burgers

SavorEat aims at the growing plant-based meat market. The company claims its robots prepare food with no human help and to the portions required to minimize food waste. 

Using the SavorEat web application, restaurant-goers can customize the amount of protein and fat, as well as select cooking preferences, in their plant-based burger with the tap of an icon. User preferences are stored on the cloud and sent to the SavorEat Robot Chef, which produces a patty in under 10 minutes. The robot uses 3D-printing techniques to construct the food. 

"SavorEat's Robot-Chef helps the food service in different aspects, beyond simply cooking assistance," the company's CEO, Racheli Vizman, said in an email interview. "From efficient and uniform production of meatballs, to information analysis and waste reduction, the Robot-Chef facilitates a more holistic and customized dining experience".

Robot Chefs Take on Human Cooks

SavorEat's robots do most of their own cooking, and Vizman acknowledged that they might take jobs away from humans. Tech advancement has led to many changes in almost every market globally, she pointed out. 

"One of the significant discussions is the changes within the workforce and the different roles that are disappearing in light of technological developments," Vizman said. "This is true in the food industry as well, and indeed, technological advancements and developments such as robots, with time, will impact and change the workforce situation in the kitchen. It stands to reason that this will include even replacing human cooks, however, it will take time."

Before robot cooks can challenge people for cooking supremacy, Vizman said that her company must convince users that automatons can do just as good a job as people. She compared robot cooks to the early stages of coffee machines in the restaurant industry and Spotify in the music streaming industry. 

A robot preparing sushi.

Itsanan Sampuntarat / Getty Images

"It takes education and a period of adoption until the consumer and the business customer are willing to make use of new technological advancements and services," she said. "This is especially true when it comes to solutions that offer personalization, and even more so when it comes to robotics. There is intrinsically a feeling of mistrust that needs to be overcome in order to advance, this is the obstacle of robots in the food service industry." 

SavorEats isn't the only company to employ robot chefs. For example, Piestro, an automated pizzeria—a standalone, fully integrated cooking system and dispenser—claims to make artisanal pizzas within three minutes. The Autec Sushi robot is an automated mechanical device that produces several types of sushi or assists in sushi preparation and can produce up to 2400 nigiri rice balls per hour.

Carla Diana, a robot designer and author of the "My Robot Gets Me: How Social Design Can Make New Products More Human," told Lifewire in an email interview that robot kitchens have particular appeal during a pandemic. She said that robots could keep food prep as germ-free as possible by minimizing human contact. 

"With robotic instructions, protocols like when and how to maintain clean surfaces, and when to clean utensils that have touched raw items, can be part of the programming, offering peace of mind," Diana said. "Food service to members of a household who might need to social distance can take place safely because everyone isn't touching the utensils and serving dishes."

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