A High-Tech Burger Joint of the Future
We at Nanalyze love to speculate about what the future is going to look like. We envision highways filled with self-driving cars. Surgeons implanting organs that have been 3D printed. Machines powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to discover a cure for cancer. It’s all mind-blowing, world-changing isht. But you’ve got to eat at some point. And that got us to thinking that even the more mundane parts of the future—grabbing a burger on the go—will be different in the future. So here’s our take on the burger joint of the future.
3D Print Construction
First, let’s start with the brick-and-mortar building itself. Our burger joint of the future will have been built in about a day using a 3D printer, maybe like the one developed by Shanghai-based Yingchuang Architecture & Technology (more commonly known as WinSun). This is no ordinary desktop printer. This monster machine is 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide and 132 feet long. It can spit out a house in less than 24 hours, using recycled construction waste, industrial waste and tailings. Just days ago WinSun signed a three-year partnership with American company AECOM (NYSE: ACM) to collaborate on 3D printing design and construction. WinSun is already under contract with a Saudi Arabian contractor for $1.5 billion to lease 100 of its 3D printers. Should only take an hour or so to spit out one burger joint of the future.
For some, the idea of kitchen automation might be as simple as putting a Hot Pocket into a microwave for 90 seconds. We have something else in mind—robots that can flip burgers with the best of the best pimply 18-year-olds. Miso Robotics in Pasadena has built Flippy, a burger-flipping robot that uses artificial intelligence to learn on the job at the burger joint of the future. Backed by fast-casual Caliburger, as well as Canyon Creek Capital and other backers for an undisclosed amount, Miso Robotics was founded less than a year ago. It calls Flippy a kitchen assistant, meaning it still needs humans to prep meat and add the finishing flourishes after the burger has been cooked. What it does is grab and cook hamburger patties to order using data from thermal sensors, 3D sensors and different cameras, according to TechCrunch.
This sounds a bit like another company we covered called Momentum Machines, which is developing a robot that can make 360 gourmet hamburgers per hour. The difference appears to be in the software: Flippy is AI-based, using machine learning to make new foods. Don’t worry: It can already add bacon to your order. Caliburger plans to have Flippy working in 50 stores over the next two years.
Man cannot live on beef alone. He also needs beer. Coming in a distant third is vegetables. Our burger joint of the future will need to draw in the occasional vegetarian. It will probably be a law in California by 2020. Chowbotics has our burger joint of the future covered with salad-making machine Sally. Backed by $6.3 million in equity funding, including a $5 million Series A in March, Chowbotics has Apple alum Rich Page on board as executive chairman. Sally can create 1,000 different types of salads from 21 different ingredients, churning out one per minute. Someone still needs to prep and load the ingredients, however. Futurism reported that Chowbotics hopes to have 125 machines dishing out kale and other crunchies to other Silicon Valley offices around the Bay Area by the end of the year. (Chances are, some of those greens were produced with the help of artificial intelligence from companies like Blue River Technology.) The $5 million in new funding will help add staff and develop new robots to dish out ethnic cuisine like Indian and Mexican food.
London-based Moley Robotics promises to put a Gordon Ramsay in every kitchen. It has raised $1.17 million in equity crowdfunding toward that goal. Moley is more like a robotic kitchen, with robotic arms, oven and hob. Users control it through a touchscreen and mobile application. Moley reportedly uses motion-capture technology to imitate the movements of professional chefs, and is able to cook more than just burgers. It can even clean up after itself. (There goes another half-million dishwasher jobs.) However, we’re not ready to bring Moley into our burger joint of the future just yet. The Register in the UK reported that Moley smells a bit fishy. After looking over the company’s business plan, the paper concluded, [the CEO has] “scribbled some ideas on the back of a fag packet, mocked it up in a CAD suite and asked an actual robotics firm if he can help himself to some of their tech”. Judge for yourself:
Café X Technologies
Do hipsters eat burgers? We’re not sure either. But they definitely drink coffee, so our burger joint of the future will also serve java. We might just contract out that part of the business to Café X Technologies, which just opened a robotic coffee kiosk in San Francisco. TechCrunch reported that the enterprise is backed by $5 million seed round that included names like Khosla Ventures and The Thiel Foundation. Customers can order different caffeinated beverages through an app for nearly half the price at cafés run by tattooed baristas (got to pay for all that ink somehow). Patrons can even choose from different varieties of locally sourced beans. Ironic mustache is optional.
KabaQ 3D Food Technologies
We’ve spent our fair share of time overseas, sampling the local cuisine whenever possible. Our usual strategy is to find restaurants that feature menus with lots of photos and point to something that looks tasty, hoping the fuzzy picture of noodles doesn’t turn out to be live worms. Kabaq plans to remove the uncertainty by creating augmented reality menus. The New York startup was acquired last December for an undisclosed amount by The Glimpse Group, a company building a portfolio of VR and AR companies. Diners will be able to “interact” with each menu item at our burger joint of the future. It’s like Wonka Vision but without the danger of being dangerously shrunk down to the size of a worm.
You thought Wagyu beef was expensive? Try paying $6,000 a pound for chicken grown in a lab. That’s what it currently costs San Francisco-based Memphis Meats to grow meat from animal cells. The startup has raised a little more than $3 million, pulling in $137,000 last November through crowdfunding. In March, the company served free samples of its test-tube poultry. It claims the process will eventually become scalable—meaning affordable—and will replace the need to slaughter chickens. We wonder if vegetarians will embrace Memphis Meats as a meat alternative. It can’t be any worse than the processed stuff they consume to eat food that tastes like meat while avoiding meat. If so, we can add Frankenstein fried chicken bits to Sally’s salads in our burger joint of the future. Will this put robotic butchers out of a job?
Internet of Things
Innit is one of those Silicon Valley startups that is so slick that you’re not quite sure what they do but it sure looks cool, if you check out the video below. The company has raised $43 million over two rounds to develop an end-to-end smart, connected kitchen. The Innit platform, for our burger joint of the future, will be able to identify what food we have in stock and recommend recipes based on inventory. It even helps with the cooking through connected kitchen appliances. In February, Innit acquired ShopWell Labs, which produces an app that provides personalized nutrition recommendations. It’s like having your mother a dietitian right in your mobile phone. Earlier this year, Innit announced partnerships with Good Housekeeping, Pirch and Whirlpool, according to the San Jose Business Journal.
Americans spend about $800 billion each year eating out, according to the National Restaurant Association. That’s a lot of burgers—and even quite a few lab-grown chickens. It’s just a matter of time before our burger joint of the future arrives, fully automated and staffed by machine learning robots. What does that mean for the 14.7 million restaurant industry employees? Maybe Gordon Ramsey will still be hiring.
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