Robot cooks coming

Robot cooks coming

Bengaluru companies are in the forefront of developing smart cooking assistants. Soon, you could buy an AI device and forget about your kitchen hassles

Among the companies worldwide working on getting robotic assistants to make fresh food are some Bengaluru players.

These food-tech startups are combining robotics and artificial intelligence to customise their services to customer tastes.

A device called Delight

When Yatin Varachhia and his wife moved to Whitefield, they tried everything — from hiring five cooks one after another to trying to make their food themselves.

Seeing the time and effort involved, Yatin started wondering about what could be automated. This led to the birth of Euphotic Labs which has come up with a robotic product called Delight. 

“Delight can cook all one-pot recipes such as sabzi, palya, upma, poha, fried rice, lemon rice (for this, it needs cooked rice) and so on,” Yatin says.  

When his company did a user survey, it found a strong demand for dishes with personalised taste.

“So we came up with around 100 recipes, open sourced, and tagged them city-wise since each city has its own preferences. Users can choose a recipe either on a phone app or on the device itself,” he adds.

The product has a slotted cartridge where you put in all the ingredients and let them cook.

The device factors in the fact that the quality of vegetables varies almost daily. The machine understands this and bases the cooking time on the quality, style of chopping, and type of ingredient.  

The company has developed a working prototype and is now generating leads through campaigns. It plans to start taking pre-orders in three months.

“There is a huge requirement for a product of this type. Wherever we go and talk about Delight, 30-40 per cent of the people ask for a pilot demo. We have noticed that most inquiries come from migrants from other states, such as Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat, settled in Bengaluru,” says Yatin. The MRP of Delight is Rs 45,000. Pre-orders come for Rs 35,000.

Julia ready for the grind

Raghav Gupta and Rohin started Nymble Labs when they realised freshly cooked food was fast becoming a luxury accessible only to those who stayed with their family or had hired cooks.

“For working professionals like us, this luxury was not possible, especially if one also had a child to take care of,” says Raghav, co-founder and CEO of Nymble, which is developing robotic assistants for the kitchen.

“We are developing Julia, a domestic cooking robot, that can cook a variety of delicious meals at the press of a button. All one has to do is choose a recipe on the app, insert ingredients in specified containers, and tap cook. You don’t have to know how to cook, you don’t have to portion your ingredients, you don’t have to stir, you don’t have to monitor your food. Julia takes care of everything,” he explains.

This is made possible by a bunch of sensors, actuators and cutting-edge intelligence which enables chef-like decision-making every single time. The  sensors gather visual, thermal and weight inputs from the food being cooked, and process them to cook food consistently every time.

“Our business, as well our customers’, is largely based out of the United States with technology development in Bengaluru. We are running alpha trials across California and signing up early customers, who are using our early prototypes and giving us feedback,” says Raghav. 

What he has noticed is that a vast majority of these customers are double-income parents who find it difficult to ensure their kids have fresh food every day.

“Julia helps them provide for the needs of picky eaters, since it lets them customise each dish,” he says. The company is still determining a pricing model.

Mechanical Chef, made in Shivajinagar

Many more companies have discovered that food and AI make for a delectable combination.

Shivajinagar-based ‘Mechanical Chef’ calls itself a cooking robot for Indian cuisine. The website says it can cut and load ingredients and cook 100 dishes such as rice, rasam, sambar and sabzis.

It has customisable recipes, integrates with your phone, and allows you to cook remotely too.

True, there are multiple food delivery platforms and dabbawalas who might work out cheaper but the health factor kicks in — one is not always assured of clean, hygienic food while ordering. And automated cooking leaves you with ample time for yourself.

World’s first robotic kitchen

Moley Robotics, founded by Mark Oleynik, has created the world’s first robotic kitchen. The smart kitchen has a two-armed robot (which learned skills by observing MasterChef Tim Anderson), as well as a stove, a sink and a counter where the robotic hands operate to create the desired dish. At 15,000 dollars, it is wildly expensive but the innovative experiment has excited many across the globe.

AI works in restaurants too

Bengaluru-headquartered startup Dishq uses AI-based solutions and food science to suggest recommendations, personalisation, menu and product development, insights and trends to players in the F&B industry. 

Gulpie, with offices in Bengaluru and San Francisco Bay area, calls itself a personal food assistant that uses powerful AI to rate and pick restaurants that suit a user’s diet, taste and health preference. It can also pick preferences, allergen contents such as peanut, gluten, concerns such as diabetes and vegan, and even discover restaurants from the feed of their friends.

Demon or genie?

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk famously said using artificial intelligence was like summoning a demon, but tech experts are doing their best to turn it into the proverbial genie that does a lot of work. AI is an ubiquitous presence in smart homes and can do anything from turning on the light or the TV to playing music; it is now entering our kitchens.