Gleaming the xRobotics Cube

Plus: FRYBOT v. Flippy, Intermode, Uber + Serve, frothy art, Chef Eric Rivera and the greatest food robot of all time!

xPizza Cube is a countertop pizza topper

XRobotics didn’t just unveil a new pizza robot this week — it charted a whole new direction that could shake up the restaurant automation game.

Gone is the xPizza One, the company’s first pizza robot kiosk that used a puck-like robot to shuttle pizza doughs under eleven different topping dispensers. In its place now is the much smaller xPizza Cube (see video↑), a countertop machine that’s just 20 inches wide, only does sauce, cheese and pepperoni and can top 100 pizzas per hour.

“If we want to deliver to anybody, it has to be something small, lightweight and can be put in any kitchen,” xRobotics CMO Alena Tikhova (who will speak at our Pizza Automation Event next Friday!) told me by phone this week.

Not only is the xPizza Cube smaller and more focused in its application, it’s also cheaper, costing just $1,500 per month. “Existing robots are great, but they are kind of pricey,” Tikhova, a former pizzeria manager herself, said. “I can't pay four, five, six thousand for something that spreads the toppings.”

Though xRobotics didn’t come out and say it, the new Cube is definitely a shot across the bow of Picnic, which makes a modular pizza topping robot, and Lab2Fab/Middleby, which makes the Pizza Bot 5000 that also only does sauce, cheese and pepperoni. Will the xPizza Cube’s small footprint make big waves for pizzerias (or any restaurant) considering the move to automation?

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Also - hop over to Linkedin, where there was some skepticism about the Cube’s capabilities.

Our Pizza Automation Event is next week! Get your ticket today!

OttOmate’s Pizza Automation Event is just a week away! We are thrilled to have a stellar lineup of speakers from Papa John’s International, Picnic, xRobotics, Lab2Fab, Wavemaker Labs, PAZZI, and Refraction AI.

Time is running out, so secure your place today! It’s on Friday, november 19th from 10:00 a.m. - noon (pacific) and it’s all online, so it fits neatly into your day.

Tickets are just $25 (or free if you are a paid OttOmate subscriber). Don’t miss out!

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Lab2Fab’s got a FRYBOT. Why not?

Turn-a-bot is fair play, I suppose.

XRobotics’ move to take on Lab2Fab came just hours after we learned about Lab2Fab encroaching on Miso Robotics’ territory.

Lab2Fab’s President Shawn Lange (also a speaker at next week’s Pizza Automation Event!) posted a video this week of his company’s new FRYBOT, deep fryer robot. If FRYBOT’s articulating arm grabbing fries, dunking them in hot oil and placing them perfectly cooked in a holding area looks familiar — that’s because we literally just wrote about the same thing with Miso Robotics’ Flippy 2 last week.

What this should tell you is that kitchen automation startups are seeing a big opportunity in taking over the fry station. So big that Miso “paused” Flippy’s burger grilling features to focus on frying, and now a giant like Lab2Fab/Middleby is jumping in.

While it’s not a zero sum game, and there is plenty of opportunity around the world, the winner of any deep fryer fracas, obviously, will be whomever can develop a machine to deep fry Oreos at county fairs first.

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Become an OttOmate subscriber! It’s a business publication so you can surely expense it!

Podcast: Chef Eric Rivera on what food robot startups don’t get about restaurants

Chef Eric Rivera is awesome. Not only does he make amazing food, but he’s not afraid to knock automation startups down a peg. This week’s OttOmate podcast is with Rivera and I hope you listen because he talks about the real-world issues restaurants face — and what food robot companies don’t get about them.

As Rivera told me, and later tweeted (see↑), a line cook doesn’t just cook — they clean, they do dishes, they carry stuff when needed. A robot will only ever do the task it’s assigned. Rivera isn’t a luddite, but he’s also not automatically enamored of all automation.

Also, Rivera is taking his Addo restaurant experience (which is fantastic!) on the road. Book him for a unique experience!

🔒Listen to the Podcast

And for free subscribers, my interview last week with Dishcraft CEO Linda Pouliot is now available!

“FedEx doesn’t make their own vans.”

I want you to pay attention to a startup called Intermode. Intermode is in the delivery robot business but it is not in the robot delivery business.

Based outside of Detroit, Michigan, Intermode is a bunch of ex-Ford engineers that make robots for delivery services. That’s it. They make the robot, you bring your own autonomy or teleoperation system. Intermode will help you customize the rig with your sensors and cameras and whatnot, but after that, you run the robot.

You should pay attention to Intermode because 1.) I think the company is on to something, and 2.) Intermode shows that the robot delivery space has leveled up, in a way. You can get “off-the-shelf” parts now to assemble your own robo-delivery service without needing to build everything from the ground up.

Intermode Co-Founder and CEO Arnold Kadiu gave me the scoop on his startup this week, providing some cool insights on things like robot design and how his company can help others scale more economically.

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Uber gets Served in LA

Nothing makes me happier than when a CEO casually drops an 80s pop music reference during an interview. So I was delighted when Serve Robotics Co-Founder and CEO, Ali Kashani brought up Walking in LA by Missing Persons (← rad) during our video chat this week.

Kashani was talking about the news that Uber has partnered with Serve to do robot food delivery in Los Angeles starting next year. First off, this deal is entirely unsurprising — Serve was spun out of Uber earlier this year and Uber is an investor in Serve, so… you do the robo-math.

But what is more surprising to me is just how quickly Los Angeles has become the city to rollout your delivery robot. Serve was there first, however, and as Kashani explained to me, that gives his company a big (data) advantage over newcomers like Coco, Kiwibot and Ottonomy.

Read the full Q&A to learn more about Serve’s go-to market, the Uber deal and Serve being on David Chang’s The Next Thing You Eat.

🔒Read the Full Q&A

Warm up this winter with an OttOmate hoodie! They are super soft and cozy.

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Frothy art market?

As more robo-bartistas come to market (here’s a handy guide!), they will have to differentiate themselves in order to attract the hotels, airports and universities that might install them. It won’t be enough to have an articulating arm that works around the clock.

Chinese IoT company Know Intelligent Technology’s angle is that its inBot barista does latte art. The company is working with a latte art master to teach the robot how to do hearts, swans, leafs and more — and the system will keep learning new patterns.

The inBot can do 300 cups of beautiful coffee drinks per day and already has installations in mainland China, Hong Kong and Dubai. But will fine art on froth be enough in the competitive automated coffee world?

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Pipester Chocolate Factory might be the greatest food robot of all time

I mean, come on! It dispenses chocolate and waffles and whipped cream! Watch that video and tell me I’m wrong. 😁

It’s Veteran’s Day here in the U.S. I want to take a quick moment to recognize and appreciate my dad, a career Navy man, and everyone who serves.

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