X, the “moonshot factory” of Google parent company Alphabet, announced today that two prototypes developed as part of a project called Project Delta have graduated and are now being transferred to Google for scaling and commercialization.
Project Delta, which has been incubating within X for the past two and a half years, was led by Emily Ma, who announced the transition to Google today in a blog post.
From the post:
Our team’s mission was to create a smarter food system — one that knows where the food is, what state it’s in, and where best to direct it to ensure it doesn’t end up in a landfill and instead goes to the people who need it most. After two and a half years of prototyping and testing a range of technologies to help reduce food waste and food insecurity, I’m pleased to share that some of our prototypes and team are moving to Google so we can scale up our work.
In her post, Ma highlights two prototypes developed as part of Project Delta. The first is an “intelligent food distribution network” nicknamed “dana-bot.” To build dana-bot, the X team took a dataset donated by the Southwest Produce Cooperative, categorized and standardized each entry, and then used it to match food in food banks and pantries based on “real-time needs in the Feeding America network.” Grocery chain Kroger also leveraged dana-bot to manage excess deli products, which allowed it to open up “millions more meals to communities that need it.”
The second prototype utilized computer vision and machine learning to capture images of food thrown out in Alphabet kitchens. After running it in 20 different units across Alphabet cafes over a period of six months, the system was “able to automatically collect two times as much information about the kitchen’s food waste as the manual system.”
And now these two systems are graduating to Google proper, where Ma says her team hopes to “start tackling food waste and food insecurity on a larger scale.” The team plans to roll out its computer vision system to more Alphabet kitchens and utilize Google’s resources to expand the food distribution network and eventually offer it to other organizations.
As more and more venture funding pours into the future of food, it looks like big tech is starting to also wake up to the possibilities of applying their technology innovation to creating a new food system. Google is no exception. This news is just the latest development from Google and its parent company Alphabet that could have larger-scale implications on the broader food system.
Last week Alphabet announced that its DeepMind group had used AI to help solve a grand challenge around protein structure prediction that the scientific community had been working on for half a century. In August, Google Lookout added food label reading to help the visually impaired, and back in 2017 the company unveiled that its Lens visual discovery technology could serve up recipe suggestions based on images of food.