The way Dexai Robotics co-founder and CEO David Johnson sees it, restaurant-industry automation is heating up.
“There’s a great ecosystem that is building around this idea that food production is like a warehouse or a factory in that you are making a product for a customer,” he said. “But it’s different because you are making it just in time for the customer.”
Alfred assembles versatile dishes
A new wave of robotics companies are popping up specifically to cater to restaurant industry challenges and needs, and Dexai is one of them, Johnson said.
Enter Alfred, the 4-year-old company’s collaborative robot arm it started offering through a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model in December.
Somerville, Mass.-based Dexai claimed that Alfred can adapt to most kitchen layouts and can be programmed to assemble a wide number of meals. A pick takes less than 8 seconds, and the robot can handle various kitchen utensils and tools, according to the company's website.
Dexai addresses restaurant labor shortages
With Alfred, Dexai said it hopes to help address labor shortages and make working in a commercial kitchen easier.
There are certain challenges when it comes to designing a robot for a kitchen, Johnson said. Food needs to be prepared quickly to be served fresh. The robot also needs to be able to be customizable, since each restaurant has its own ingredients and recipes.
That’s perhaps Alfred’s biggest sell, Johnson said. Because the robot is so adaptable, its potential applications in the kitchen are wide and varied.
“Alfred is able to understand a kitchen layout and is able to make decisions and be smart about it so it can be infinitely customizable,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what combination of ingredients or quantities or whatever you want, Alfred can do it.”
Customers testing capabilities
Dexai currently has four Alfred customers. One robot is being used by the U.S. Department of Defense at the Travis Air Force Base in California. Another is being used by food service distributor Gordon Food Service, Johnson said.
Johnson said the plan is to make Alfred capable of “doing everything in the kitchen.” He said Dexai’s software is what really makes it product unique since it uses off-the-shelf robot arms.
The company is working to expand Alfred’s capabilities. For example, Alfred’s cooking capabilities are limited, Johnson said, but it has been used for grilling.
The robotic cooking market is growing rapidly. Globally, the robot cooking market was valued at $86 million in 2019, according to Research Nester. By the end of 2028, it projected to be valued at $322 million, with a compound annual growth rate of 16.09%.
About the Author
Cesareo Contreras was associate editor at Robotics 24/7. Prior to working at Peerless Media, he was an award-winning reporter at the Metrowest Daily News and Milford Daily News in Massachusetts. Contreras is a graduate of Framingham State University and has a keen interest in the human side of emerging technologies.
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