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“Heston Blumenthal wants robots to make your boring lunch” by Wired magazine

Posted on Monday February 24, 2020 in In the press

Story by published by Wired Magazine

The experimental chef has joined the board of Karakuri, a startup trying to automate the mass customisation of sandwiches and salads.

Credit: Daniel Stier

Heston Blumenthal flips through a small notebook. Inside are sketches and handwritten notes in beautiful calligraphy. On one page, he stops and indicates a mesh of thick scribbles that slowly resolves into the shape of a human skull. “Twenty-three degrees,” he says. “The angle that the spinal column enters the cranium is the same as the tilt of the earth on its axis.”

Blumenthal is one of Britain’s most famous chefs – his scientific, multi-sensory approach to cooking has won him critical acclaim, and a total of six Michelin stars for The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head in the Berkshire town of Bray, and Dinner in London. His signature is misdirection: a tangerine is shaped from chicken liver, playing cards melt into chocolate.

But he has a wide range of interests: over the course of a couple of hours in his company, conversation veers from toxoplasmosis – an infection caused by a cat-borne parasite that can cause neurological problems in humans – to the politics of fear and irritating airline safety videos.

His latest venture involves robotics. In October 2019, Blumenthal joined the board of Karakuri, a London-based startup that wants to bring robot arms to restaurant kitchens. Co-founders Barney Wragg and Simon Watt worked together at chip-maker ARM, and in the music industry at Universal, and have backing from Brent Hoberman, the co-founder of lastminute.com and chair of Founders Forum. Karakuri has raised more than £7m in funding, and has 20 employees based in a former bicycle factory near Hammersmith, in west London.

In one demonstration, a robotic arm turns and twists to collect pick’n’mix sweets from automated dispensers. In another, a precise amount of yoghurt and granola are added to a cereal bowl. Eventually, Wragg says, the system will be able to enable mass customisation of food at restaurants, cafes and sandwich shops. Pret could be about to get predictive.

“People are much more sensitive about allergens and how their diet makes them feel,” says Wragg. “That’s putting huge pressure on the day-to-day food industry because it requires a lot more configuration.”

Credit: Daniel Stier

Karakuri’s technology is based around off-the-shelf robotic arms, which are normally found on factory assembly lines. Its key intellectual property will be in developing the infrastructure that goes around them, and building dispensers that can tackle the varying attributes of different foodstuffs: figuring out, for example, exactly how long you have to squeeze a container of mayonnaise to get precisely ten grams, or how the viscosity of honey changes depending on the temperature it’s stored at.

Food-delivery firm Ocado has made a £6m investment, and will soon be installing a robot arm in its test kitchen, where it could be used to prepare customised meals for home delivery. Right now though, Karakuri is focused on resolving a staffing problem at quick-service vendors – the kind of places where you might grab a sandwich on your lunch break. “Those restaurants, by their very nature, become very repetitive, very hard places to work,” says Wragg. “The move towards customisation actually makes those jobs more boring, and more difficult, and people are making a decision with their feet not to take those types of jobs.”

Chains and supermarkets have become experts at predicting what demand for a particular sandwich filling will be on a certain day, but they still get things wrong. “There’s a huge amount of wastage in the food chain,” says Wragg. Customisation will help improve efficiency, and Wragg says that robotics will help accelerate the adoption of big data by putting sensors on the frontline. “It’s about knowing where things are, what state they’re in, when they were grown,” says Wragg. “A lot of the good that data is going to do will be around sustainability.”

Eventually, Blumenthal hopes that robotics and artificial intelligence could have a wider impact. “We eat too much,” he says. “We do not appreciate food, and we throw food away. We need to change our relationship with food.”

Connected sensors and robotics could enable a future where you can track in real-time how your body and the microbes in your gut react to certain types of food, and where your meals could be automatically designed with your happiness in mind. Blumenthal is adamant that this shouldn’t be about prescribing people the foods they “should” be eating, though. “It’s not telling you to eat more spirulina, or not to drink or not to eat sugar. All it’s doing is mirroring and giving you the opportunity to know more about yourself.”

It’s not just sandwiches and salads. At Michelin-star level, Blumenthal says robotics will free up chefs to be more creative – to try things they couldn’t before because they would have been too difficult for humans to measure accurately or replicate consistently. “Unknowingly I created the most consistently precise, linearly driven restaurant system that exists in the world,” says Blumenthal. “Let’s get robots to do the measurement stuff for us much better than we can do, and let’s allow human beings to be human.”

Amit Katwala is WIRED’s culture editor. He tweets from @amitkatwala

Read this story on Wired.co.uk

 

Business Insider feature Karakuri in the most exciting healthcare startups in Europe

Posted on Friday February 7, 2020 in Karakuri News

Karakuri Business Insider Top healthcare startup

Business Insider have just included karakuri in their list of 11 of the most exciting startups across European health, from sleep diagnostics to VR-based therapy:

“Robot nutrition, AI drug discovery, and neuro-rehabilitation: 11 of the most exciting healthcare startups in Europe

European health tech is booming.

According to an in-depth report on Europe’s tech by Atomico, a major European VC firm, $3.6 billion was invested in health-related tech firms in Europe between January and September 2019. That’s a six-fold increase on the $624 million invested in European health startups in the whole of 2015.

Martin Mignot, a partner at the London-based multinational VC firm Index Ventures, told Business Insider that Europe’s advanced public health networks make for an especially friendly entrepreneurial environment.

“European founders tend to have an advantage in the healthcare sector,” Mignot said. “The delivery of healthcare via public systems makes healthcare less fragmented than elsewhere in the world, creating an opportunity for innovation at scale.

“This level of innovation is welcome news for patients, who as a result will have easier access to improved healthcare services; for the public purse, which will benefit from the increased efficiency; and for society, who are empowered to move to a more preventative approach to health,” he added.

No 6: Karakuri (UK)

Led by CEO Barney Wragg, Karakuri has built ‘robot chefs’ to automate and improve food preparation. It ultimately aims to provide hungry workers everywhere with personalized, ultra-precise meals that can be tweaked to accommodate individual dietary requirements and taste preferences.

Karakuri also aims to use its tech to reduce reliance on plastic packaging, and it has partnered with UK online supermarket Ocado, which is also its main backer. Wragg was named in BI’s list of the 100 most important and impactful people in UK tech for 2019.”

Read the full Business Insider article >

Itsu’s Former Head of Food, Pippi Brereton, joins robot restaurant Karakuri

Posted on Tuesday January 14, 2020 in Press Releases

Pippa Brereton joins KarakuriJanuary 2020: 

Robotic restaurant startup, Karakuri, has hired food innovation expert, Pippi Brereton, as its new Director of Food. With Karakuri transforming the way the food-to-go food market works, Pippi will deliver unique insight into menu development and food preparation operations to maximise the opportunities Karakuri’s ground breaking robotic and automation technology offers food retailers and restaurants.

Pippi joins Karakuri with a wealth of food innovation knowledge, gained from her work in the consumer goods and food-on-the-go sectors; spanning across Itsu, Graze, Gű Puds and Pod. Pippi has led innovation, menu development and food strategy by combining data-driven insight into consumers eating habits with an understanding of the processes and operations needed to efficiently deliver consistent, high-quality, delicious products and meals the consumer wants.

As Karakuri’s Director of Food, Pippi will work alongside customers to develop and optimise their offering, menu and operations through the use of Karakuri’s automation and robotics systems addressing each customers’ unique business challenges.

Barney Wragg, CEO and co-founder of Karakuri, said, “Karakuri is a technology business where everything we do is about the business of food. Pippi brings a wealth of food service, retail & hospitality experience  into the very heart of our business. One of the biggest changes facing the industry is the growth in demand for personalised nutrition. Consumers are looking for food retailers and restaurants to offer menus that can be tailored to their specific needs and dietary goals.  Pippi will work closely with our customers to develop insight around their existing menus and customer offering to show how our technology can evolve their entire customer proposition to meet this rising demand.”

Pippi Brereton added, “Consumer demand for quality, healthy, tasty food that can be personalised to our individual needs is at an all time high; coupled with growing pressures for increased consumer choice and heightened convenience. Karakuri is doing something truly unique and exciting in order to address some of the key challenges facing food operators today, as well as addressing prevalent economic pressures facing the industry.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact Laura Moross at laura@lsmpr.co.uk or +44 7969673895.

Karakuri is a UK based technology company designing, manufacturing and installing robotic automation systems for restaurants, commercial kitchens and caterers.

Born out of the Founders Factory incubator, Karakuri was founded by Simon Watt and Barney Wragg, two longtime friends and colleagues who originally worked together at ARM in the 90s. In April 2018 Founders Factory invested Karakuri and Brent Hoberman joined the board as Chairmen.

Heston Blumenthal to advise robotic restaurant Karakuri

Posted on Wednesday October 30, 2019 in Press Releases

Press Release
October 2019:

Renowned chef and culinary alchemist, Heston Blumenthal, has joined robotics startup, Karakuri, as a board advisor. Heston, known for his unique creations and seeking perfection in food through science and technology, will provide Karakuri with insight and advice on how Karakuri’s automated food preparation system can deliver delicious , hyper-personalised meals.

This is the first time Heston Blumenthal has worked directly to advise a tech startup. Heston joins Karakuri’s advisory board alongside ARM, Ocado, Imperial College, Bristol Robotics Lab and Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. The board’s mix of experts from the robotics, retail and food world’s means that Karakuri can push further to the forefront of cutting edge technologies and define how they can be used to impact how consumers eat in restaurants or on-the-go.

Heston Blumenthal, founder of The Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston, said, “I’ve always been excited by the capabilities of robots. In recent years, the robotics industry has shifted greatly from being the workhorses of manufacturing into many other areas of our lives. Karakuri are part of a new vanguard of companies focusing on the use of robots in the food, beverage and hospitality space and I am really looking forward to helping be part of this growth.

The collaboration between robots and humans is something I am deeply interested in. Whilst there are so many incredible things robots can do for us, they lack many of the key human qualities that make the hospitality and service sector so special. Through my cooking I have come to understand the power of emotion and how it relates to food, how it is affected by feelings such as nostalgia, empathy and now our microbes. A robot is missing these factors and therefore it can never have as powerful a connection with food as humans. Part of the attraction of Karakuri was their willingness to explore these areas so that, as we build ever more sophisticated machines, we don’t lose sight of the beauty of human beings. Let’s use robots to celebrate the things that only humans can do”

Barney Wragg, CEO and co-founder of Karakuri, added, “From when we first came up with the initial concept of Karakuri, Simon and I dreamed that Heston would join us. Heston is the world leader in understanding the intricacies of how science and food work together to create something very special. He is constantly questioning how can we push the boundaries of food and its preparation. We are delighted to have access to this insight as we develop Karauri’s new and smart ways to prepare and deliver fresh meals.”

 

Notes to Editors

About Karakuri (www.karakuri.com

Karakuri is a UK based technology company designing, manufacturing and installing robotic automation systems for restaurants, commercial kitchens and caterers.

Born out of the Founders Factory incubator, Karakuri was founded by Simon Watt and Barney Wragg, two longtime friends and colleagues who originally worked together at ARM in the 90s. In April 2018 Founders Factory invested Karakuri and Brent Hoberman joined the board as Chairmen.

 

About Heston Blumenthal

Internationally famous for his award winning, 3 Michelin starred The Fat Duck in Berkshire, Heston Blumenthal is considered to be one of the best and most influential chefs of his generation. Completely self-taught, he has pushed the boundaries of a traditional kitchen and changed the way people cook and think about eating. After extensive academic research, Heston was the first chef to affirm that eating is a ‘Multi -Sensory experience’.

Aside fromThe Fat Duck, Heston is proprietor of two Michelin starred Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Melbourne, one Michelin starred The Hinds Head, The Crown at Bray village pub, and The Perfectionists’ Café.

Heston Blumenthal has been described as a culinary alchemist for his innovative style of cuisine. His work has awarded him international recognition and his research into the sensory journey of gastronomy has enabled him to work with food historian, perfumist, food physiologists and biochemists from all over the world. His papers written in partnership with the University of Reading awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Science in 2006. His Television Programme ‘Heston Blumenthal – In Search of Perfection’ was awarded a GQ Glenfiddich award in 2007 and was nominated for a BAFTA in 2008, in addition “Feast” with Channel 4 was also Bafta nominated in 2010. In the New Years Honours List in January 1st 2006 Heston Blumenthal was awarded an OBE for his contribution to British Gastronomy by Her Majesty the Queen. In 2007 he was voted The Best Restaurant in Britain by the customers of the UK Good Food Guide and in 2008/2009/2010 was accredited a 10/10, the highest score in the guide awarded by both readers and inspectors. The Fat Duck is currently the only restaurant in the UK to hold this position.

 

Photo credit: Alisa Connan

Karakuri listed as one of Wired Magazines Hottest Start-Up in London 2019

Posted on Monday August 19, 2019 in Karakuri News

Wired September / October 2019

Karakuri’s first prototype, a robot named Marley – 1.5 by 1.5 metres, with an arm and 12 ingredient dispensers – can serve up to 120 bespoke meals per hour, each customised according to portion size and nutritional content. “There’s been no shortage of press stories about the economic pressures on restaurants and other service providers and the huge waste problem the industry has,” Barney Wagg, CEO of Karakuri, says. “The genesis of Karakuri was born out of a realisation that the foodservice market needed an update. The emergence of lower-cost robotics and machine learning systems has the potential to transform the ready-to-eat meal market.” In May 2019, Karakuri secured a £7m investment, led by Ocado, with Hoxton Ventures, Firstminute Capital and Taylor Brothers. Ocado expects to take delivery of the first Karakuri machine in late 2019.

Read the full article here

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