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Dinner is served – TechCrunch


I’ve been trying to plan CES – and, I suppose, won’t be planning this week. There’s a strange disconnect from receiving an ad for the millionth UV sterilizer robot while you’re weighing the pros and cons of attending a show in person, amid the rise in popularity. latest variant boost. In the end, we decided not to go to Vegas this time, but I predict we’ll have a lot more to discuss for the newsletter in a couple of weeks.

Almost two years later, it’s odd to note that CES and then our Robotics Session were the last events I attended in person. Having played a role in organizing and driving TechCrunch’s CES efforts, I understand the importance of not taking these decisions lightly.

And I certainly feel it’s still beneficial for me to attend conferences in person, especially when it comes to robot reviews. There is a limit to how good you can get with the robot through a Zoom call.

If anything, all of this has really pointed to the home that mainstream adoption of robotic systems feels instantaneous, extremely close-knit, and still fraught with difficulty. Anecdotally, I can tell you that I received more pitches for robotics for this CES – a show designed to be a finalist for next year. They represent a wide range, from consumer to industrial – and everything in between.

The pandemic has certainly spurred excitement and investment into the industry, but the actual pace of adoption varies widely between categories. The two examples we’ve looked at so far for our year-end wrap-up are pretty far-fetched. Like manufacturing before it, warehouse and robotic fulfillment are very much becoming a reality. If you’ve recently purchased something online, chances are a robot helped get it into your hands at some point.

Delivery robots are harder. There are a number of pilots out there, and depending on where you live (especially if it’s anywhere near a college campus) you may have seen one of them fly by – even if it does not bring the food directly to you. Sidewalks are generally less controlled spaces than warehouses, and there are red regulations that have to be worked out to get them out into the world, so despite all the funding, don’t expect to wake up tomorrow to stormy sidewalks Mixed by robot .

This week, I want to talk to you about who – or, perhaps, what – is actually making food that these robots can deliver to your door.

Image credits: (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Before we started, we asked iRobot co-founder and CEO Colin Angle to reflect on the past year in robotics and make predictions for the coming year.

What are the robotics/AI/automation trends that define 2021? Warehouse automation, driver assistance technology – and Feces detection, of course – are all areas where we’ve seen a breakout in 2021. It was a remarkable year as the super-acceleration in online shopping (nearly disrupting 2020) seemed to be. works remarkably well, largely due to large investments in automation. I actually saw a TV commercial about self-driving trucks targeting Central America. Did this really happen? And I’m proud to say that one of the sordid, rarely discussed challenges of robot vacuums now is in the rearview mirror, with the advent of highly reliable visual object recognition in consumer price level. I think it’s safe to say that 2021 is a transformative year for robotics.

What will 2022 bring for these categories? As we move into 2022, I’d love to see the real smart home advancements everyone has been waiting for. In the current version of the smart home, complexity is too high and usability too low – but tools are being born for experience-priority ecosystems to emerge and begin to evolve in capabilities. and the simplicity of the system. So I see 2022 as not only a year of continued industry acceleration among the usual suspects, but also a year where we will see a significant step forward in the thoughtful integration of robotics into our daily life. It’s exciting to see momentum grow on so many fronts!

And now for one of the most frustrating wits I’ve had in my long and illustrious career, we’re moving from poop detection to food preparation. [leaving a note here for when corporate asks why my new newsletter lost all of its subscribers in its third week].

Los Angeles Times test kitchen food shot via Getty Image of a margherita pizza removed from a brick oven taken on March 11, 2009. (Photo by Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Last year was a big one for robotic food preparation. Before the pandemic, prominent startups entering the field were few and far between. Some – including, notably, Zume Robotics – rotate out of categories. But along with the influx of venture capital for robotics in general, the automation of the restaurant business has also increased. Two main reasons you probably know by heart almost two years doing this. First, there’s a huge staffing shortage in the US. Second, robots don’t get sick – nor do they make people sick.

If I had to summarize the current state of food robots in four words, they would be:

  • Pizza
  • Bowl
  • Fastfood (yes, I cheated by making up this one word)
  • Kiosk

Image credits: Going picnic

The first two sit at the top of the list for similar reasons. If you are going to automate a food, it needs to be common and relatively uniform. Sure, there are lots of different toppings, but for a robot, making pizza is a pretty straightforward experience: dough, sauce, cheese, toppings, cook, repeat. Companies like Going picnic and XRobotics looking to pick up where Zume left off.

Image credits: Spyce

The bowl fills a similar niche. They have grown in popularity in recent years and work around a fairly basic pattern. Even with variations between toppings and toppings like salads, quinoa and the like, the principle is pretty simple. So it’s perhaps no surprise that California-based fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreens is back in August with… MIT spinout acquisition, Spyce. The move follows a similar acquisition by DoorDash, bought the salad robot company Chowbotics in February.

Miso leading the charge for fast food at the present time, with several major partnerships already announced. The company’s burger-frying and flipping robot can’t completely replace a kitchen worker yet, but it’s getting more and more capable, generation after generation.

Image credits: Nommi

Meanwhile, kiosks are designed to take humans out of the equation. The solution was given quite late, due to the aforementioned labor shortage. Human interaction with systems is largely limited to loading, maintenance, and ordering. But with the right technology, you can have a self-contained kitchen that efficiently prepares fresh food at the push of a button, as seen with products like Nommi, whose recent deal with C3 brings food from Iron Chef’s Masaharu Morimoto to the food prep machine 24/7.

As for the news this week, things have slowed down a bit, ahead of the holiday season. However, we managed to get a glimpse of what Hyundai is preparing for this CES. The automaker has actually doubled down on its robotics efforts, including by acquiring Boston Dynamics. The new Mobile Eccentric Droid (MobED) is a platform in every sense. It is a literal one; a four-wheeled mobile device with a staging area in the middle. It can also accommodate a host of features ranging from teleconferencing to package deliveries to smart baby carriages.

Image credits: Hyundai

Regarding its stabilization technology, Hyundai said:

The eccentric-based posture control system also stabilizes body posture by adjusting the height of each wheel according to the ground environment. MobED’s 12-inch pneumatic tires also help absorb shocks and vibrations.

Tiger Global, meanwhile, continues to spend aggressively. This week, the company led a $30 million Series B for Pasadena, California elementary schools. Ring, also with participation from Fika Ventures, Fathom Capital, Riot VC and Toyota Ventures, bringing the total funding of the machine vision startup to $47.5 million. Founder and CEO Arye Barnehama told TechCrunch:

During the pandemic, manufacturing and logistics experienced massive labor shortages that began before the pandemic but have increased dramatically. As companies wanted to continue to automate without having to rely on expensive and hard-to-find technical talent, our business scaled because we were able to provide them with AI solutions. code.

Before we start, $7 million Series A from Unbox Robotics. 3one4 Capital led the round for the India-based logistics robotics company. Sixth Sense Ventures and Redstart Labs also participated, along with a number of existing investors, including SOSV. The company says the funding will be for recruitment, technology development and expansion into new territories.

Image credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

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