Hyundai Robotics announced today that it has partnered with KFC Korea are to develop robots that can cook chicken, reports The Korea Herald.
There weren’t many details in the story other than that “KFC Korea will provide its stores and cooking know-how under the deal,” according to The Herald.
However, the KFC Korea/Hyundai partnership reinforces two trends we’ve been seeing over the past couple of years. First is the continued partnership between massive automation companies and various food-related entities to develop food-related robots. The second is that — wow — who’d a thunk that KFC companies would be leading the charge into the future of food tech?
We’ve known for a while that food presents an interesting challenge for roboticists. Because it is often oddly-shaped and susceptible to bruising and damage, food is a good test case for robot manipulation. If a robot is sensitive enough carefully handle an egg, it can definitely apply that skill to other fragile materials in more industrial settings.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has added another reason for big companies to get into food robots, as restaurants and eaters seek out more contactless experiences. As a result, restaurant interest in food automation is surging. The reasons are pretty straightforward, robot cooks don’t get sick, can work around the clock, and can create more social distance in the kitchen.
Hyundai and KFC is the latest food company + industrial conglomerate partnership we’ve seen form over the past couple of years. Previously Panasonic teamed up with China’s Haidilao hot pot restaurant chain to open a robot-run kitchen, and LG is working with Korea’s Woowa Brothers to develop server robots.
But just as, if not more interesting are the moves international KFC companies are making when it comes to restaurant tech innovation. In addition to KFC Korea’s forthcoming chicken frying robots, KFC Russia has a Moscow location using a network of devices and conveyor belts to automate meal service, and the company announced in July that it was launching an initiative to use 3D bioprinters to create chicken meat.
KFC may not be able to say it’s finger-lickin’ good any longer (thank you, pandemic), but the company’s finger is definitely on the pulse of food automation.