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I heard an interview with comedian Neal Brennan in which he said a guiding principle for him is asking “And then what?” He uses it in terms of success and personal happiness, but as a journalist, it’s a good reminder to not just think in the moment, but also look at what lies ahead.
“And then what?” came to mind when I wrote a story this week about how researchers at Iowa State University built a knife-wielding robot. Through a bunch of incredibly complicated math, the robot can coordinate and combine a series of push, press and slice motions to cut up an onion. Sure, the technology is crude right now, but nonetheless: a robot can autonomously use a knife to figure out how to chop food, and even adjust its actions when something unexpected (like hitting something hard while cutting) happens.
When we write about robots now, it’s often in the context of taking over a job that’s menial, repetitive or dangerous. But the ability for robots to do human-style tasks is accelerating. Iowa State’s robot is only on onions now, but carving more intricate/delicate things like meat won’t be that far behind. Flippy the robot can grill a burger and fry up chicken tenders, and its creator, Miso Robotics, has already said it is working on programming Flippy to do prep work like, say, chop onions.
When robots can do those tasks more precisely and consistently than people, what does that mean for our human workforce and us as a consumption society? Over the past year we’ve said that these are questions we need to start asking. But as robots get better and more skilled, we need to start “and then what?” right now.
An email newsletter I’ve become addicted to lately is “What’s the Difference?” by Brette Warshaw. In each issue, Warshaw breaks down how subtle things are difference (this week’s is biodegradable vs. compostable).
In much the same way, my colleague Jenn Marston did an excellent piece over the weekend on the difference between startup incubators and startup accelerators. The explainer came about because of our Food Tech Fireside Chat we held last week, I feel like it’s one of those questions that a lot of entrepreneurs want to ask, but might hesitate out of fear of looking stupid.
Never fear! We’ve got your back, shy food tech entrepreneur. TL;DR: An incubator helps a startup that is really more of an idea, an accelerator helps a company that’s already up and running.
You should definitely check out Jenn’s whole piece because it provides more background and insight, as well as a handy list of food tech startup accelerators and incubators that you should look into.
Finally, what better way to wash down this week’s newsletter than with a $200 bottle of coffee.
That’s right. Two. Hundred. Dollars. For a bottle of Elemental Beverages’ limited-batch Gesha coffee which, as Catherine Lamb writes is “made with beans that score 90+ on the Coffee Quality Institute’s Q Grading Scale, which puts them in the top 0.1 percent. The beans also cost a whopping $450 a pound.”
Catherine pounded down a bottle of the $200 coffee (sidenote: she did not share) and came to the conclusion that it was “crazy delicious.” Check out her full review, and if you want bragging rights to your own ridiculously expensive bottle of coffee, act quickly — it’s almost sold out.
One thing you definitely want to get your hands on before it sells out is a ticket to our upcoming Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle. This year’s show promises to be bigger and better than ever, so grab your early bird discount ticket today!