As we ponder the future of the robot-inundated job market, it’s hard to pin down which sectors face the greatest threat from automation. Cashiers, assembly-line workers, and delivery drivers have likely seen the writing on the wall in one form or another. Until recently, the sit-down culinary industry seemed a less likely victim of the automation revolution.
Leave it to MIT to shatter any preconceptions about the limits of the ever-evolving field of robotics. Four graduates of the prestigious technical university located in the heart of Boston brought their robotic fast food restaurant concept to one campus dining hall in April 2016. It works like this: students order their food via a touchscreen kiosk or an app. The robotic chefs measure out ingredients, deliver them into rotating barrels to cook, and then deliver the finished product into an awaiting bowl below. Quality-control sensors monitor the temperature of the food, while the space required for the machines occupies only 20 square feet. Whether students are in the mood for mac and cheese, chickpea coconut curry, shrimp andouille jambalaya, or an assortment of other internationally-derived delicacies, the robotic chef can whip it up, no questions asked.
The innovative take on quick dining-hall cuisine netted the quartet a $10,000 prize in a food technology contest, and it appears they are putting their winnings toward their next goal: bringing the robotic kitchen to the consumer market. By Spring 2018, a fast-casual version of Spyce will open in Downtown Crossing, a Boston shopping hotspot. And they’re not going it alone, as they’ve received a co-sign from renowned chef Daniel Boulud. Apparently, the fast-casual sit-down restaurant won’t resemble the version that MIT students quickly embraced, either.
You may have seen a prototype in early 2016, but we've assembled an incredible team that has completely redesigned and reengineered the robotic kitchen, a Spyce representative told Eater.
While the design itself remains somewhat shrouded in secrecy, one can safely bet that Spyce’s trademark automation will be at the heart of the concept. Whether patrons embrace the human-less style of food preparation or find final product appealing remains to be seen.