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Dining with Robots: The 2015 Future of Food

If our A.I.s turn evil next year, we’re all going hungry.

The robot-driven food revolution is upon us. (Tosy/
Photo: Tosy/ robot food robot robot waiter Somabar Pizza Hut Ark Investment Management Tomorrow Machine

If our A.I.s turn evil next year, we’re all going hungry.

In 2014, the paleo trend got a lot of love. But in 2015, resolve to pick your fists off the ground and enjoy some technologically advanced cuisine. Here are four up-and-coming food trends that show the future of food is bright. (Spoiler alert: Hover cheese boards are not among them. Yet.)

Mix Drinks in Five Seconds Flat

Dylan Purdell-Lowe and Ammar Janbarwala don't want you to strain your forearm while squeezing a lemon ever again. So the pair created Somabar, a cocktail making machine that allegedly shakes, stirs, and blends 300 different drinks in five seconds apiece.

future of food
(Courtesy of Somabar)

“We found ourselves going out to bars a lot and found we were waiting in line for 30 minutes to two hours,” says Purdell-Lowe. “And we discovered this Japanese vending technology where they vend canned beer and they can do it on the street, [the machine pours the beer directly into a glass] and we thought, how great would that be for cocktails?” 

Pretty great, actually. The Somabar has six “pods” which hold liquors, tonic, or whatever else you might want in your drink. There’s also a spot for bitters or simple syrups. The machine is controlled by an app (getting up from the couch to punch a button is too arduous), and Purdell-Lowe says you can easily tweak recipes so the machine remembers exactly how you like your Manhattans.

Best of all, you don’t have to tip it—and it will never ignore you while it serves the line of cute girls in mini skirts.

The Somabar is currently taking pre-orders through its massively successful Kickstarter campaign.

Order Pizza from a Subconscious Menu

Maybe your eyes are bigger than your stomach, maybe they’re not. The best way to know? Ask Pizza Hut. The company is using retina-tracking software to create its first “subconscious” menu, which, according to a press release, is “designed to intuitively recognize what the user really wants, even when the user doesn’t.”

future of food
(Courtesy of Pizza Hut)

The computerized menu tracks your eye movements as you glance over options. The toppings you linger over longest (or return to repeatedly) are the toppings it assumes you want. In 2.5 seconds it suggests an order from more than 4,896 possible combinations. And if it gets it wrong, you just look at the re-start button and begin the process anew.

Flaws, of course, include the fact that it doesn’t account for your eyes lingering over “Cheesy Bites” while wondering why the hell anyone would order such a monstrosity. It also doesn’t have an option for “looks repeatedly at the door while pondering escape to a decent pizza joint.”

Shop with Supermarket Robots

Despite the fact that many grocery stores have yanked self-service checkout machines in recent years, Ark Investment Management thinks roving supermarket robots could be the key to grocers’ financial success. But the company envisions moving the robots from the front of the store to the back. 

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A report published by the company in April asserted that shrinkage (that’s the polite word for stealing or employees making mistakes) accounts for a loss of 1.25 percent of the average grocery store’s revenue. Since grocery stores have notoriously low profit margins, the company theorizes that subbing robots for stock boys could more than double profit margins.

With Lowe’s testing robots at four of its San Jose Orchard Supply Hardware stores, it may not be too much longer before we see roving cyborgs restacking the cans of beans.

Eat from Disappearing Packaging

Organic, humanely pressed juice is only as environmentally friendly as the package it comes in. And until now, even biodegradable packaging has been slow to break down—something can be labeled compostable if it breaks down within six months in a commercial composting facility. But what if your packaging could disappear as you sip your smoothie?

future of food
(Courtesy of Tomorrow Machine)

Swedish design firm Tomorrow Machine has created a line of food-safe packages that disappear within just days of use. One, a beverage container made of agar agar gel, actually shrivels as you sip. Another, made of beeswax, will break down within just a few days.

The packages are beautifully futuristic, but designer Anna Glansén says that the company focuses on sustainability first and fashion second. “It’s important to us that our work is aesthetically pleasing but mainly we try to keep the material in focus and bring out the properties that we like in it,” she says. She adds, “We also believe there is no need to make products and packaging more complicated than they should be. It’s a matter of reducing all elements that are unnecessary, not only for aesthetic reasons, but for sustainability reasons.”

Currently the company is in talks with at least one food manufacturer, and Glansén says that she firmly believes that packaging like this will be widely available within the next five years.