Talk about “fast food,” a Japanese company just unveiled its SushiBot at the World Food and Beverage Expo in Tokyo. The countertop-sized robot makes the chef’s job easier by balling rice up into the small elongated mounds upon which fish and other ingredients are placed. At 3,600 mounds of rice per hour, it’ll be all the chef can do to keep up.
The rice formations are taken from a large inner bowl with care so that not even a single grain of rice is damaged, according to Takeshi Kawamata, a representative of SushiBot maker Suzumo.
Watch the SushiBot serve 'em up rapidly in the following video:
Tokyo-based Suzumo makes another machine that churns out nori sushi, the kind wrapped in a sheet of seaweed. As you'll see in the next video, the seaweed is placed onto a folding platform which then slides into the machine and comes out with a flattened layer of rice. Ingredients are placed on top of the rice, then the platform rolls it into a single roll which is eventually sliced up.
Although sushi chefs can take solace in the fact that the ingredients as of yet still need to be added by humans, I’m guessing the new particular role might not be as fulfilling.
As stated on their website, their mission is “Spreading the Rice Eating Culture to the World.” Given their multitude of rice-centric devices – 70 in all! – it’s not hard to believe them.
Suzumo, has been in the business of making sushi robots since 1981 when they made the world’s first, according to the company. But they’re not the only ones trying to automate the centuries old Japanese and Chinese staple. Autec has its own series of sushi machines. Its nigiri maker is a tad slower than Suzumo’s, churning out 3,300 mounds of rice per hour.
But don’t book that sushi party just yet. Autec’s machine is about $17,000. Until they get a lot cheaper our options will pretty much remain going to the restaurant or taking a class. Obviously these machines are made for use in a high-throughput setting such as a hospital or school cafeteria. But now maybe we can have sushi at the stadium. Nothing says baseball like cold beer and a California roll. So that the sushi can have a longer shelf life, or so people can order carryout, Suzumo also has a robot that wraps the sushi pieces individually in plastic. Also, given the recent salmonella outbreak – highly-suspected to have been spread by sushi – automated sushi could be more sanitary as well as efficient.
The big question is, of course, do they taste the same. Maybe the sushi robots can have a sort of “Head Chef” meets “ROBO-ONE” roll-off where celebrity sushi chefs try to tell which ones were made by machine and which by caring, human hands. Sushi restaurants already have conveyor belts. Once SushiBots become entirely automated no one need show up to work.
But then, isn’t half the fun watching the chefs make our sushi anyway?