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Robotic vending machine rides in Silicon Valley

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Robotic vending machine rides in Silicon Valley

For the vending machine, Sally made a cruel salad.

On a visit to Chowbotics“The Bay Area Headquarters in March, when it was possible to visit, I tapped my order on Sally’s touch screen. Immediately, the plastic cylinder arranged in a concentric ring rotates back and forth so that the paddle that rotates at the bottom of each container can eject romaine lettuce, cooked grains, pistachios, Parmesan shavings, and a spoonful of the right sauce into the compost bowl, finished working, he made a bell that reminded me of a Las Vegas slot machine.

Just a few months ago, Chowbotics and fellow Bay Area makers from a high-tech vending machine that sold cappuccinos, hot ramen, and croissants warmly discussed their appeal in terms of freshness and 24-hour comfort. Then COVID-19 makes dangerous food orders for workers and customers. Suddenly, the thought of machine-smoothed food seemed less new and more like a survival strategy.

Chowbotics chief executive Rick Wilmer said Sally’s demand had skyrocketed since the pandemic struck, especially in hospital cafeterias and grocery stores that had removed salad bars because of safety concerns.

“If you are an N95 mask company or a ventilator company, and you are in a business that is driven as a result of an epidemic, that’s really good luck,” he said. “I can’t call it luck. But [we have] a solution that fits the world as it is today. “

Sanath Bhat, hardware technical leader at Chowbotics, showed the company’s Sally salad vending machine.

(Noah Berger / For The Times)

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Given the enthusiasm of Silicon Valley for burger robots and pizza delivery robot robots (failed), it is inevitable that technology companies will turn their attention to vending machines, poor rescuers from bakeries and enemy dieticians. According to the National Automatic Merchandising Assn., More than 4 million vending machines are deployed throughout the United States, serving 40 million people per day. The Association estimates that vending machine manufacturers, operators and brokers contribute $ 10.1 billion to the U.S. economy. in 2017.

One of the first robot vending machines to appear in San Francisco was Cafe X, which has an articulated arm that directs the cup from the espresso maker to the customer’s window, before waving the brace with dystopian insouciance. Shortly after its debut in 2017, he joined the Hayward-based Yo-Kai Express, whose machines produce hot bowls filled with ramen, udon and pho brothy. Bake Xpress, which makes hot croissants, sandwiches and mini pizzas, first appeared in public this winter at UC Berkeley; a Texas coffee company called Briggo installed a barista robot at San Francisco International Airport in January. Even more than these machines are located in private offices, schools and factories.

Robot Cafe X releases a cappuccino at San Francisco International Airport.

Robot Cafe X releases a cappuccino at San Francisco International Airport.

(Noah Berger / For The Times)

Chowbotics founder Deepak Sekar, originally a mechanical engineer in the flash-memory industry, said that to make Sally do simple deceptive tasks such as providing the right amount of mangoes or fragile lettuce, the company took advantage of advances in robotics, sensors and mobile technology to producing machines that it sells for around $ 35,000.

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Over the past 20 years, Heidi Chico, chief executive of Wittern Group, a manufacturer of vending machines in Des Moines, has seen a number of inventors try to reinvent vending machines.

“I have seen a pizza machine, a French fry machine, a fresh fruit juice machine – believe it or not, the lobster vending machine is alive,” he said.

Chico calls the food and beverage segment of his industry “mature markets,” meaning one without much room for growth. His company still makes candy-bar-and-chips machines but is switching to devices that issue hospital scrubs and computer equipment.

“We do not consider ourselves to be vending machine manufacturers,” he said. “More than producers controlled expenses.”

Amanda Tsung, chief operating officer of Yo-Kai Express, said he also did not mention the ramen vending machine. “We call ourselves an autonomous restaurant solution,” he said, and immediately laughed, aware of turning to talking technology. Then he floated another tag: the restaurant in the box.

Yo-Kai Express ramen vending machine at the Metreon center in San Francisco.

Yo-Kai Express ramen vending machine at the Metreon center in San Francisco.

(Noah Berger / For The Times)

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Even before COVID-19 forced more than 5.9 million US restaurant employees out of work in March and April, according to Restaurant Business magazine, the California restaurant industry felt pressure from rising rental prices and minimum wages. If the bistro shifts to table service to reduce servers, will visitors be more open to restaurants in the box?

“Vending machines will not replace restaurants,” said Chris Albrecht, chief editor of Spoon, who tracks the progress of food technology. “This is meant to go to places where the restaurant is not feasible.” University dormitory. Company office. The airport whose concession was closed before the last flight departed. Albrecht even imagined the appearance of a vending machine, where customers could buy a variety of fresh food 24 hours a day.

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This isn’t enough restaurant food. Cafe X, I must say, makes Americano respectable, using beans from top-class grills. When I ordered the $ 11 tonkotsu Yo-Kai Express ramen at a shopping mall before closing, a thin plastic steaming bowl emerged from a machine containing al dente noodles and soft roast pork in thin broth no better or worse than a restaurant offer. neighbor food court. The Bake Xpress’ UC Berkeley location, currently closed, issued a $ 6 mini pizza with pale cheese and crust that hardens when I eat.

A bowl of ramen is distributed by the Yo-Kai Express vending machine at San Francisco International Airport.

A bowl of ramen is distributed by the Yo-Kai Express vending machine at San Francisco International Airport.

(Noah Berger / For The Times)

Before the closing of the pandemic, Chowbotics had sold more than 100 Sallys – some for salad chains in Southeastern countries that saw robots as “mini locations.” Given the machine’s small footprint, it also helps clients choose the best place to place the salad robot. “If you get the wrong location, you can simply roll it,” Sekar said. “And the price is 10 times cheaper than a store.”

The company found a special niche in the hospital with workers and patients 24 hours, where sales peaked after the cafeteria closed. “Unlike in the salad bar, food is contained, minimizes oxidation and contact, keeps food safer and tastier!” Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La., Wrote on Facebook before the pandemic.

Sally, Chowbotics salad waster robot

Sally, the Chowbotics salad waster robot, has found a niche in the hospital with 24-hour workers.

(Noah Berger / For The Times)

The niche has only been developing since March: According to Chowbotics, 70 hospitals now have Sallys, quadrupling its placement in just three months. (Farmer Fresh, a Midwest company whose vending machines produce rowdy salads, has also seen business multiply in more than 100 hospital locations since COVID-19 hit.)

Sally keeps her salad ingredients at a constant temperature and food-safe below 40 degrees, which according to the Chowbotics representative has helped the health examiner receive them.

Vending machines that sell hot food take longer to get the green light regulation. Benoit Herve, chief executive of Le Bread Xpress, which “micro-bread maneuvers” cools the cake into a microwave-infrared combination oven, said that every time he put one of his machines, he had to explain it to the local health department.

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“We work very closely with them to explain what we can do, what we do, to ensure that we meet any conditions,” he said. Now that he has several machines, he says he is starting to find a certain regulatory momentum that should remove the obstacles to spread his bread machine further and wider.

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Currently, pale food safety issues are compared to COVID-19 fears. California is in the midst of easing restaurant and bar restrictions, but more than half of Americans are still worried about entering, according to a May 20 poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Many contactless food choices that appear during closure may become permanent. Reservation and payment systems such as Tock and Square introduce new ways to order food and pay without having to sign the touch screen. This month a cafe in Portland, Ore., Bought a robot coffee maker similar to Cafe X to make a basic drink. Automat dumpling cakes are scheduled to open in New York in July.

In the short term, high-tech vending machines have experienced a drastic decline in restaurant-owned sales, because many locations where they operate have been closed or inactive. (In fact, Cafe X and Briggo, two coffee machines that focus on the airport, stop returning The Times emails.)

A traveler passes by the Briggo coffee vending machine at San Francisco International Airport.

A traveler passes by the Briggo coffee vending machine at San Francisco International Airport.

(Noah Berger / For The Times)

But the atmosphere in many companies is good. “If you look at the big picture, it shows that without supervision will be the main strategic direction for future food choices,” Herve said.

The company also develops products outside the machine.

Yo-Kai Express began selling ramen cutlery through its website, offering delivery in the Bay Area and shipping to Southern California. According to Chief Executive Andy Lin, the company has been tracking the release of applications quickly that will allow users to order and pay for machine-made noodles through their mobile phones. These changes, Lin said, existed before the pandemic struck.

Chowbotics CEO Wilmer said that his company released a smartphone application in the coming weeks to enable contactless bookings. He sent inquiries from senior centers and grocery stores, and chefs and company programmers were developing refrigerated foods – barbecue bowls, breakfast vegetables – that Sally could gather customers for a microwave at home.

Just three months ago, the founders of Chowbotics saw their market niche as supplying salads in places that could not be served by the salad bar. Now the salad bar has largely disappeared, and no one knows whether or when they will return. Their disappearance vacuum was created to change the company’s path. Convenience might be the initial selling point for high-tech vending machines, but COVID-19 has presented a better one: needs.

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Thiago Monteiro in 14th and 15th before the arrival of the WTCR in Portugal – Observer

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Thiago Monteiro in 14th and 15th before the arrival of the WTCR in Portugal - Observer

Portuguese driver Thiago Monteiro (Honda) finished 14th and 15th this Sunday in the two World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) races held in Aragon, Spain, which precede the Vila Real race.

The Portuguese rider always rode in the tail, he was hindered by the fact that Honda had more excess weight than his rivals.

“If they told me that I would be in this position, I would not believe it. But the reality is that we have not been able to withstand a number of adversities. From the moment when the pace is much lower than other rivals, we are prepared in advance. It’s heartbreaking,” the Portuguese rider began his explanation after the fourth round of the championship.

The Portuguese rider struggled to find the best balance in his Civic, as did his teammate, Hungarian Attila Tassi.

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“We still had problems, and we could not reach the full potential of the car. It was very difficult, unpleasant and discouraging, especially since we are going to Vila Real and this scenario does not suit me. But we will have to continue to look for our own path and believe that everything will work out, ”Thiago Monteiro concluded.

Belgian Giles Magnus (Audi) and Spaniard Mikel Ascona (Hyundai) won both races on Sunday.

Ascona leads the league with 129 points, while Thiago Monteiro is 16th with 12 points.

The WTCR competition in Portugal will take place next weekend in Vila Real.

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Joao Almeida became the champion of Portugal in cycling

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Joao Almeida became the champion of Portugal in cycling

This Sunday, Portuguese cyclist João Almeida (UAE-Emirates) became the Portuguese champion in cross-country cycling for the first time, winning the elite national championships held in Mogaduro.

In his first online race since Joao Almeida was forced to pull out of the Vuelta Italia after testing positive for the coronavirus, he won his first national title since becoming time trial champion in 2021.

Almeida crossed the finish line in Mogadora, covering the 167.5 km distance in 4:08.42 hours, 52 seconds behind Thiago Antunes (Efapel) second, Fabio Costa (Glassdrive-Q8-Anicolor) third, and Rui Oliveira (UAE). – Emirates), fourth.

In the end, João Almeida stated that he was “very pleased” with the victory, admitting that the race “went very well” and thanking his teammates.

Former national champion José Neves (W52-FC Porto) did not finish the race, as did Rafael Reis (Glassdrive-Q8-Anicolor) who won the time trial title on Friday.

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Portuguese military admits ‘it will take time’ until territory is taken under control

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Portuguese military admits 'it will take time' until territory is taken under control

The “path” chosen for about a year in the fight against rebel groups in the province of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique is “the right one,” Brigadier General Nuno Lemos Pires said in an interview with Lusa.

“Now, while the situation is not fully under control, we all understand that, as in any other counter-terrorism situation in the world, it will take a lot of time,” added the head of the European military training mission, although he acknowledged that this “ does not mean that sometimes there are no fears and failures.

However, “this is part of what constitutes an action taken against terrorists who operate in a very wide area, who in themselves have the initiative and the ability to hide in a very wide area,” he said.

In fact, he stressed, many of the recent attacks that have taken place in the south of Cabo Delgado in recent weeks are due to the fact that Islamist extremist rebels had to “flight from the north” of the province.

“Because this was a consolidated military operation carried out in close cooperation between the Mozambique Defense and Security Forces (FSS), [e com as forças d]Rwanda and SAMIM (Southern African Development Community Mission (SADC) in Mozambique), who were clearing out the intervention areas that existed in the area, the reaction of many terrorists was to flee the area, go further south, where they were not pursued. , and make new attacks,” he explained.

“In such cases, the initiative almost always belongs to the terrorists. There are few of them, they hide among the population, they move over very large territories, with a lot of dense vegetation, it becomes very difficult to find them, but you can easily move,” he continued.

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On the other hand, the Portuguese general emphasized, “it is now difficult for these groups” “to concentrate power and forces for large-scale operations, as was the case three years ago during the conquests, such as Mocimboa da Praia or Palma.” ,” he said.

“They don’t have that ability. Many of these attacks even demonstrate [estratégias] survival [clássicas das guerrilhas]. They’re looking for food, they’re looking for supplies, they’re searching deep down for a place where they can survive, because the area is already under quite a lot of control. [por parte] Mozambique FSS, Rwandan forces and SAMIM,” he explained.

In this context, Nuno Lemos Pires highlighted the “quick response” of the Mozambican authorities to each of these developments, starting with head of state Filipe Nyusi.

“I think it is exemplary that the moment there is a movement or a series of significant attacks in other areas, we immediately see the President of Mozambique heading north, linking up with his Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (CEMGFA). , with the Minister of Defense, with the Minister of the Interior, and outline plans on the ground for a quick change of equipment and the ability to respond to such movements,” he said.

During one such trip to northern Mozambique in mid-June, Mozambican Interior Minister Arsenia Massingue said that Mozambican police were informing the “enemy” – the rebel forces in Cabo Delgado – about the positions of the FDS and allied forces on the ground.

However, Lemos Pires downplayed the situation. “We must be aware that there are infiltrations in any political system. It’s happening everywhere. Ignoring this dimension is tantamount to ignoring what is happening everywhere,” he said.

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“I don’t know of a single case of insurgency, counterinsurgency, terrorist or counter-terrorist combat where these leaks didn’t happen frequently. You need to be careful. .

In addition to the vastness of the territory that has been the scene of conflict and the topography favorable to insurgent guerrilla strategies, the porous borders with Tanzania to the north of Cabo Delgado and Malawi to the northwest also pose a danger. challenges the SDF and allied forces of SAMIM and Rwanda.

Lemos Pires also relativized this question. “We are talking about transnational terrorism, and it is good to understand that the situation in the north of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado, is not limited and is not limited – and has never been limited – exclusively and exclusively to this region. A phenomenon that exists throughout Africa. , namely in Central Africa,” he said.

The UETM commander even took advantage of this circumstance to formulate an “extended response” to “a broad problem, a regional one, and the solution must also be a broad regional one.”

Therefore, “it’s very good what we see here on the ground, in fact, this is the unification of the efforts of regional African forces to try to deal with a problem that really worries everyone,” he concluded.

“What happens in one region can affect another. That is why it is in everyone’s interest that these groups be fought, detained and that the narrative that they are currently spreading can be counteracted – we hope that there are fewer and fewer successes,” the Portuguese general stressed.

NPS // PYAA

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Lusa/The End

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