A London tech start-up unveiled its robot chef prototype on Thursday as it announced it had secured £6.5 million in new investment.
The funding for Hammersmith-based Karakuri came from Ocado, Deliveroo-backer Hoxton Ventures, and lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman's Firstminute Capital, as well as the Government's Future Fund. It follows a £7 million investment round led by Ocado last year.
The start-up, launched in 2018, is creating a robot able to prepare personalised bowls of food on for customers on demand, with several orders on the go at any time.
People will be able to order from the DK-One robot chef by placing an order from their phone or tablet, and the genius machine will use up to 18 hot or cold ingredients to prepare the chosen meal.
It can give you an exact portion size - reducing food waste - and even a calorie count.
An initial version of the DK-One, revealed on Thursday, is currently being trialled and reviewed at the start-up's west London site. This early DK-One is a "robot canteen" able to produce customised healthy bowls from ingredients including granola, yoghurt and berries.
Further trials are set to run in venues as soon as Covid restrictions are lifted, and the Karakuri team say they are on a mission to "build robots that change the way the global food and hospitality industry services customers".
They are already in talks with outlets around the world, and hope to see the robots installed and in action for consumers from 2022.
Chief executive Barney Wragg said: “This is one of the most highly-anticipated stages of our business and a really important step.
“We’ve spent time talking to our customers and industry specialists, and seen huge enthusiasm for DK-One’s potential. Now up and running, this will be the first time we can use a pre-production machine to demonstrate the DK-One’s commercial and nutritional benefits in the real world and thus demonstrate our vision for the future of food.”
Professor David Lane, CBE, Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Co-Chair of the UK Government Robotics Growth Partnership, added: "The pandemic has thrown up further challenges of distancing and remote working that can now readily be addressed through robotic innovation. This is why there has been a huge interest in the developments Barney and his team are innovating at Karakuri and it's a pleasure to be supporting them in the next stage of the business."
Several high profile attempts to create robot chefs have been scrapped over the past year. Deliveroo quietly shelved its lab developing a prototype this spring, while Softbank-backed Zume's robot pizza chef was also abandoned earlier this year when half the company's staff were laid off.