Useless Tech Episode 4: Sally, The Salad Robot

Sally the Salad Robot is a real thing. I kid you not. Technology has provided us with an “automated chef”. Is this too good to be true?

All excitement aside, Sally the Salad Robot is the brainchild of Chowbotics, a startup developing robots for food service. Sally can make up to 1,000 salads using different combinations of 21 different ingredients. The process of making the salad is quick, only taking 60 seconds to make.

Deepak Sekar, the CEO of Chowbotics, has a vision for Sally that revolves around providing employees at the workplace a quick, healthy alternative to eating out. It is set to run 24/7, so you have food to eat during those late nights at work. Sally is ideal for office, airports, hotels or anywhere that gets a lot of public traffic.

This service comes at a premium price tag of $30,000. There is another option of leasing it for $500 dollars a month. The salads are set to be priced at around $8 a salad. Anyone who eats out on a regular basis knows that $8 for a meal is a pretty good bargain. Sally can even give you the nutritional information of the customized salad that you made.

The biggest issue I have with the Sally is that it is touted as an “automated chef”. Sally cannot do anything except dispense salad ingredients that have already been prepped by a human. Essentially, Sally is a really expensive vending machine.

Rich Page, the Chowbotics Executive Chairman, argues that this is more than just a vending machine. His reasoning, “there’s significant motion in here, the primary weight sensor controls the amount Sally dispenses of each ingredient. Users’ choices determine which ingredients are used at all.” If you add sensors to a vending machine, it is still a vending machine. The only function Sally can do is dispense things, which is the literal definition of a vending machine.

Sekar puts the icing on the cake when he says “I’ve always believed that cooking is fun. But during the week, life is so rushed between work and family. When I looked at time I spent cooking, 85 per cent was spent doing repetitive tasks, like chopping. I wanted to do something else with that time.”

I totally agree with Sekar’s statement. Automation should be used to do the boring stuff. I work with many automated devices at work and the primary focus of an automated device is to do the low level work for you so you can focus on the higher level work. However, Sally cannot do the repetitive tasks that Sekar talks about. It’s hilarious because Sekar uses chopping as an example, which Sally can’t do.

This poses a fundamental problem I see in technology. Having technology for the sake of having technology. I see it all the time, where people buy technology thinking that it will automatically solve a problem for them. An automated system that could prep food for you is much more useful than an expensive salad dispenser. Even if it can toss your salad for you. *Insert inappropriate joke*

The greatest value of automation is not having to waste your time doing mundane tasks. The hardest part about making a salad is prepping all the ingredients. Putting a salad together is the easiest part. You can pay me $1,000 and I will come to your house and take your pre-made ingredients and mix it for you.


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