Malaysian helps build world’s first salad-making robot

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KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian has helped to design and build a salad-making robot.

Kathirgugan Kathirasen played a key role in the creation of Sally the Salad Robot which was launched at co-working space Galvanize in San Francisco yesterday. It is believed to be the world’s first salad-making robot.

A report in Business Insider said Sally could dispense 21 ingredients to create more than 1,000 different salads, and that each took only about a minute to make. The customer just has to press a few buttons for his favourite salad.

Calfornia-based Chowbotics, the robotics startup behind Sally, also plans to build robots that can create and dispense Chinese, Mexican and Indian food.

Kathirgugan, a former student of La Salle Brickfields and Sekolah Menengah Bandar Kinrara Seksyen 4, did a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in the US.

The first employee of Chowbotics, Kathirgugan, 26, is now the Technical Lead of the startup in China.

Business Insider quoted Deepak Sekar, CEO of Chowbotics and the brains behind Sally, as saying their initial goal was to enable office workers to buy quick and healthy meals on-site. The company hopes to install about 125 salad-making robots in the Bay Area’s tech offices this year, before taking Sally elsewhere.

Chowbotics stellar team includes executive chairman Rich Page, who worked alongside Steve Jobs pioneering personal computer design at Apple Inc and later as a co-founder of NeXT Computer, and chef Charlie Ayers, who was Google’s first executive chef.

The report said when a customer ordered a salad from Sally, they could make a custom combination or choose from a handful of signature salads created by Ayers. Sally lets users select desired ingredients from a menu and provides them with precise caloric information so that they can watch their weight.

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PSFK, the world’s leading provider of innovation insights, said in a report today that although Sally was primarily targeted at businesses such as supermarkets, restaurants and hotels, a smaller and cheaper version could soon find its way to homes.

In a report earlier this month, Bloomberg described Sally as a “major new player in a potential multi-billion market for food-service robots”.

It quoted Deepak, who received his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology after studying at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, as saying that Sally could make salads faster than a human could and it could tell how many calories the chosen salad was delivering. Also, it is more hygienic to have a machine prepare the salad.

Deepak, the report said, next planned to build robots that would deliver ethnic foods – such as Chinese, Indian and Mexican – instantaneously. Much farther down the line, Deepak hoped to build home versions of Sally.

Bloomberg quoted Deepak as saying: “Remember the first computers in the ‘60s were the size of a room. An affordable home food robot might not take decades to create, but it won’t be next year.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Deepak as saying: “We actually see millennials prefer to get it (food) from a robot. We find a lot of people want to see how the food is dispensed.”

Sally has a window in front so customers can see ingredients being dropped into their bowls.

“Some of our customers call it ‘eatertainment.’ We’ve done trials in restaurants, and people keep taking photos of Sally,” Deepak told The Washington Post.

The report quoted experts as predicting that eventually, artificial intelligence could become a common feature in kitchens.