The era of food automation is upon us and Silicon Valley startups are taking notice. The latest unveiling: Sally the Salad Robot. Capable of making 1,000 different salads in about 60 seconds using 21 different ingredients, Sally is the product of robotics startup Chowbotics. With a mission to provide healthy eating options to busy professionals in the San Francisco Bay area, Chowbotics hopes to have 125 Sally’s fully installed in tech office by the end of 2017.


Sally the Salad Robot

According to a recent Futurism article, Sally the Robot has a wide selection of signature salads created by Chef Charlie Ayers – the first Executive Chef at Google. With the option of customizing your order with any of the 21 available ingredients, Sally can whip up your healthy salad by simply connecting to her intuitive app.

As it stands right now, Chowbotics’ Salad Robot still requires a human to load its ingredients with a canister by hand. But it’s only a matter of time before Sally evolves into a fully autonomous machine powered by artificial intelligence.

2017 has been a big year for robot automation, especially in the food industry. Whether it’s Café X’s robotic barista arm named Gordon, Caliburger’s fast food robot named Flippy, or Wheely’s first app-controlled 247 convenient store, there’s been a sudden uptick in machine learning integration. Here’s are the most notable innovations in food automation in the past year:

Café X

Café X – the first robotic café with locations in San Francisco and Hong Kong – is automating your daily caffeine fix. Promising “precision crafted specialty coffee in seconds,” CEO Henry Hu, “guarantees every cup of coffee you are served from a Café X machine is how the roaster intended you to enjoy their coffee.” The San Francisco location is home to Gordon – the robotic barista encased behind a viewing glass – where beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, and Peet’s are roasted and served via Gordon’s robotic arm.

Armed with a Mitsubishi 6-axis industrial strength claw, one Café X robot is capable of making up to 120 cups of coffee in an hour. Backed by $5 million in seed money from Khosla Ventures, Social Capital, Jason Calacanis, Felicis Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank and The Thier Foundation, Café X’s mission is to source coffee locally while reducing wait times for patrons. The end result: cheaper coffee prices ($2.25 for an 8 oz regular coffee instead of the $4-$5 average in San Fran) and more efficient service.

Caliburger’s Flippy

Miso Robotics designed Flippy – a standalone robot – to take over the mundane back-of-house (BOH) tasks freeing up talented staff for more important jobs like FOH support (managers, servers, host/hostess, etc.). Armed with a deep learning system capable of judging “degree of doneness,” Flippy can decipher medium from medium rare, chicken from hamburger, and whether a bun needs flipping. From identifying what’s on the grill to recognizing an intruding human chef hand, the Flippy kitchen assistant uses high-tech sensors to keep a safe distance from fellow workers and at the same time, keeps learning the more it does its job.

“Though we are starting with a relatively ‘simple’ task of cooking burgers, our proprietary AI software allows our kitchen assistants to be adaptable and therefore can be trained to help with almost any dull, dirty or dangerous tasks in a commercial kitchen – whether it’s frying chicken, cutting vegetables, or final plating,” said David Zito, CEO of Miso Robotics.

Wheely’s 247 Concept

Wheelys’, a concept being tested in Shanghai, is the “world’s first app-controlled, staff-free convenience store” that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Conveniently called “Wheelys247,” the Swedish startup wants to incorporate their proprietary retail technology into pre-existing stores throughout the world. As Wheelys so eloquently explained:

“What Uber did for taxis, we do for retail.”

Ideal for busier urbanites that are still roaming the city at all hours, the Wheely247 concept relies on app profiles and security cameras to reduce theft. Since access to the convenience store starts by creating a user profile and is linked to your smartphone, identifying those who grab and run out the store is pretty easy. Those who have been caught grabbing merchandise without scanning, lose their privileges. Not being able to access one of the most convenient ways to grab late night snacks – may not worth the effort – especially considering the price point.

The Shanghai location currently requires its members to sign up on the company’s website – reducing any possibility of theft and at the same time, monitoring customers’ shopping behaviors. According to a recent New Atlas article, the Shanghai store looks like “a giant walk-in vending machine.”