Call it shawarma, doner kebabs, or gyros, robots are ready to serve it on your plate. This Mediterranean dish consists of meat slowly cooked as it rotates, which is then sliced off the spit as you order. As one can imagine, cutting hot rotating meat is a bit of safety hazard. Now a German company, Alkadur, has automated the process, providing a robotic slicer guided by an overhead camera for that perfect kebab without the danger to humanity. The Doner-Robot can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing up to 300 kilos of output per day. Not bad, but Alkadur has some competition. Hyperslicer is another shawarma slicing robot that uses pressure sensing to get the perfect number of slices from the circumference of the meat. Why all this hullabaloo about robotic knives? The doner-kebab business is worth an estimated €2.5 billion in Germany alone. They recently had the first annual kebab conference (Doga) there. The Doner Robot was a big hit. See it and the Hyperslicer in action in the videos below.
I’m always impressed when I see robots in the kitchen. Cooking is the most challenging task a human can attempt (ok, obviously not, but I’m terrible at it) so I appreciate watching our mechanical brethren take a stab at it. More importantly, seeing robots in the kebab shop is an interesting indicator for automation. Despite the huge doner market in Germany, most shops are small operations and many are family-run businesses. If robots take over slicing in these shops it speaks to the extent that humans workers are being replaced. Sort of like hearing your Grandmother is using a robot to make homemade apple pie. Shawarma used to be my favorite street-food when I lived in New York. Maybe by the time I go back to visit again the machines will have taken over there, too. If so I’ll let you know how robot prepared meat tastes. Looks delicious.