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Businesses Robotics

The Boston Restaurant Where Robots Have Replaced the Chefs (washingtonpost.com) 110

Started by a group of 20-something robotics engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who partnered with Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, Spyce in downtown Boston is founded on the idea that a fulfilling meal can be more science than spontaneity [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From a report: The restaurant's founders have replaced human chefs with seven automated cooking pots that simultaneously whip up meals in three minutes or less. A brief description of meal preparation -- courtesy of 26-year-old co-founder, Michael Farid -- can sound more like laboratory instructions than conventional cooking. "Once you place your order, we have an ingredient delivery system that collects them from the fridge," Farid said.

"The ingredients are portioned into the correct sizes and then delivered to a robotic wok, where they are tumbled at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The ingredients are cooked and seared. And once the process is complete, the woks tilt downward and put food into a bowl. And then they're ready to be garnished and served." Spyce bills itself as "the world's first restaurant featuring a robotic kitchen that cooks complex meals," a distinction that appears to reference burger-flipping robots like "Flippy," who plied his trade in a California fast food kitchen before being temporary suspended -- because he wasn't working fast enough.

The Boston Restaurant Where Robots Have Replaced the Chefs

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  • Complex? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @03:34PM (#56628704)
    I'm not sure I agree that stir-fry qualifies as a "complex meal."
    • It looks like one of those slop a bunch of cooked stuff in a bowl with some spice and rice. It looks like it is about $2 cheaper than their competitors.
      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        If it can be cooked by a robot, it didn't need a Chef in the first place.

        • "If it can be cooked by a robot, it didn't need a Chef in the first place"

          Right, all we know the 'robot' is doing is applying heat to the food.

          The main work seems to be done by humans, from adding garnishes to portioning the ingredients into little pots and sending them to the right tumbling wok, which they aren't showing or explaining to us for some reason.

          "Once you place your order, we have an ingredient delivery system that collects them from the fridge," Farid said. "The ingredients are portioned into t

      • Well, if it's just as good, and $2 cheaper, I say bring on the "robots".

    • Re:Complex? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @03:51PM (#56628804)

      I cook.

      It's not complex cooking at all. Quite frankly I'd like to see them make a robot that could cook steak, potatoes, side veggies meal....because I'm quite certain they couldn't. Even a quality hamburger would confound a robot.

      • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
        That would be easier than stir fry for a robot. That's a stupid simple mean to make.
        • false, you know nothing about cooking nor how to make a quality sandwich with ground beef. Note it hasn't been done, though a burger flipping robot was made. I am not writing of burger flipping.

      • It's not complex cooking at all. Quite frankly I'd like to see them make a robot that could cook steak, potatoes, side veggies meal....because I'm quite certain they couldn't. Even a quality hamburger would confound a robot.

        Sous vide is the best way to cook all of those and it is very easily automated.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I'm not sure I agree that stir-fry qualifies as a "complex meal."

      Well maybe complex is not the right word but you can make varied dishes using the same cooking technique, like here's beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, vegetarian with rice or noodles, different accessories and spices etc. and it's made-to-order so it can be exactly how you want it with robot precision. Personally I think the latter could be the killer feature here, sure you could explain it to a human chef but then you'd have to instruct him in detail every time which would get tedious and you could never fine

      • That's a good point. I used to always order salad dressing on the side since it was simpler to add the amount I wanted than try to explain it. Another thing I noticed in the video, they have some sort of buffet of various other things you can add to it, so the human is still doing a lot of the work.
      • Actually, I think I saw in the video there is some option to save your favorites so you were on target with that prediction.
    • by Ken_g6 ( 775014 )

      It's not that complex, but I bet you could automate most of a Noodles & Co. this way.

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @05:43PM (#56629298)
      a lot of thought and effort goes into making them as quick and dirty as possible so you can "plate" them quickly and make the most profit. That's why most restaurants are built around meat. It freezes well and any idiot can cook it without ruining it.
  • by OffTheLip ( 636691 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @03:34PM (#56628708)
    Hopefully they are networking.
  • It's commonly referred to as "microwave".

  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    I saw that episode [imdb.com] of the X-Files.

  • And you don't own anything and have to pay for a hefty yearly "subscription service" or they turn it off. amirite?
  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @03:49PM (#56628794)
    This already has a name; it's called a factory. In other news, when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
  • by LordHighExecutioner ( 4245243 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @03:51PM (#56628800)
    Google Assistant will book a table, and call a self-driving cab to my home. Then my Roomba will board the taxi, go to the robotic restaurant, and orders a meal (probably mabe up of WD40, and other stuff that robots like to eat). And finally everything is billed on *my* credit card, sigh.... -
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Everyone knows robots only eat alcohol

  • So, what is their benefit package? Due they get insurance and paid vacation? How about paid sick days?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2018 @04:26PM (#56628972)

      Worked on machine controls for over thirty years, and the machines get great health insurance. As soon as they get sick, a human is dispatched to help and we have parts on site to fix the most common health problems. As for vacation time, they get all of the time they need off for maintenance.

      As for myself, I haven't had a real vacation in over twenty-five years and haven't been to a doctor since I was 13, which was a little over forty years ago.

  • "Bite My Shiny Metal Ass"

  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @04:34PM (#56629002) Journal
    If I want some slop out of a bag or box in the freezer or from a can I'll go to the grocery store and buy that for I'm sure a fraction of what these jokers are charging for a 'restaurant' 'meal'. Do not want, would not pay for it. If I'm eating out I want a human chef making me something special and nice not some shitty 'robot' making the equivalent of frozen food made in a factory somewhere. And of course what's already been in the works is firing all the waitstaff so all you do is deal with machines the entire time you're at their 'restaurant'. Screw that. There's nothing special about it, there's nothing value-added about it, why would I even bother going out to eat if that's all I'm going to get? May as well stay home and make my own food for the cost of ingredients and watch TV just like always.
    • When you eat at McDonalds are you really expecting a dining experience, or do you just want to get your food in the least amount of time possible?

      Because that's all this is; glorified fast food that currently enjoys a novelty factor and niche marketing. Once that sparkly wow factor novelty wears off, it'll have all the same charm and appeal of an automat [wikipedia.org]. It'll join ranks with the places that already prepare food such as frozen meat patties that are thawed and cooked by traveling down a heated conveyor be

      • I don't eat at McDonalds because that's not 'food', it's 'food substitute', it's overpriced, undernourishing, and more or less complete garbage. I don't eat other so-called 'fast food' for similar reasons. There are few exceptions to this for me, those exceptions are few and far between, and when I do have to resort to it, the list of where is acceptable is painfully short, and I'm reminded at the pick-up window that what I'm paying for one pseudo-meal would pay for feeding me for several days otherwise, re
      • This is more on the fast casual side, like Chipotle. Does it really matter if a human or a robot wraps the burrito? This isn't some Michelin star restaurant here. I'll gladly take the robots if it means better food quality, fewer mistakes, healthier options, etc. for the equivalent or lower price.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have one question: Is a human required to run the dishwasher station?

    The answer determines my sentiments about the whole concept.

  • Cooks Not Chefs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @04:50PM (#56629082) Journal
    In large restaurants, chefs don't actually do the cooking. They plan the meals, order the food, and manage the staff. Chefs are actually managers.

    This restaurant likely still has a chef. Instead of managing a kitchen full of cooks, he or she manages robots.
    • But robots suck, I and many others aren't willing to pay restaurant prices to have what amounts to canned or frozen food, quality-wise. Where's the value-added of going to an actual sit-down restaurant? As someone else in this discussion said: [slashdot.org]

      Quite frankly I'd like to see them make a robot that could cook steak, potatoes, side veggies meal....because I'm quite certain they couldn't. Even a quality hamburger would confound a robot.

      I agree with this 100%. Otherwise it's more or less this. [flickr.com]
      Do not want.

  • by Jaegs ( 645749 ) on Thursday May 17, 2018 @05:36PM (#56629266) Homepage Journal

    broccoli'); drop table vegetables;--

  • There's a special move in stir-frying in a real wok, besides tossing and stirring. Once in a while you have to identify the uncooked bit of a meat and press it down with the tip of the spatula onto the bottom.

    Good luck getting diarrhea from AI uncooked chicken.

  • For $60 at Walmart, you can get a bread maker, where all you do is dump in the ingredients (wait, that part isn't automatic???), push a button, and two hours later you have fresh baked bread. All you have to do is take it out and slice it (not automatic either).

    Maybe by some definition, bread makers are robots. These "robotic chefs" are robots by that same definition.

  • But if customers complain about the food, will the robots be able to prepare it again and spit in it out of spite?

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court

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