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Tuesday 14 May 2019

Ocado delivers funding for Karakuri’s fast-food robot

logoIf you’re wondering how long it will be before the cooks behind the counter at your local fast-food restaurant are replaced by robots, the answer may be sooner rather than later (or not).

picLondon-based startup Karakuri (apparently means ‘mechanisms’ in Japanese, used to describe mechanized puppets and automata) has designed a robot which looks rather like a reject from Star Wars (see pic). DK-One (as the robot is called) is designed to produce customised meals at high volume and large scale. Karakuri claims that DK-One can assemble one meal every ten seconds “assuming an average of 5.6 ingredients per meal”, with each ingredient “plated to a specified location or aesthetic”. There’s a ‘mini-me’ version too called Marley (why?) which looks like a pick-and-mix candy station.

Founded just last year by a team including ex-Arm engineers, Karakuri recently raised £7m in a seed funding round led by online supermarket and purveyor of self-same software, Ocado (see Ocado can concentrate on being a global technology champion), along with Hoxton Ventures, firstminute capital and Taylor Brothers.

I am frankly surprised and impressed that the team at Karakuri have taken less than a year to develop their robots, the first of which are slated for delivery to Ocado late this year. I must say when I saw the picture of DK-One, I was for some reason reminded of the overhyped blood-testing machine developed by the now defunct Theranos (see Hoping that DeepMind is not ‘too good to be true’). In the excellent HBO TV expose The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley, there were clips of their robot trying to undertake hundreds of blood tests at high speed and making a complete mess of it.

You can argue the case that Karakuri’s robots are simply a natural development of machines that have been in successful use by the manufacturing industry for many years. How well this technology can be adapted to assemble meals quicky, reliably and consistently from fresh ingredients that have a short shelf-life I think will be a somewhat greater challenge.

Posted by Anthony Miller at '09:11' - Tagged: funding   startup   robotics  

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