Woowa Brothers Corp., the company behind South Korea’s popular food delivery app Baedal Minjok, is partnering with UCLA to research and develop cooking robots, according to a story today in The Korea Times.
The Times writes, “Under the project name ‘Yori,’ Woowa Brothers will develop cooking robots that can perform various tasks, from placing orders and preparing meals, to bring an innovation to the dining culture.” As the article points out, the move with UCLA helps expand Woowa Brothers beyond food delivery.
But robots have been on the brain for Woowa Brothers for a while. In April of 2018, the company invested $2 million in Bear Robotics, which makes “Penny,” the robot that shuttles food and empty plates about on restaurant floors. And in December of last year, Woowa received $320 million in funding, some of which was going towards developing its autonomous delivery robot program.
Adding cooking robots to its arsenal would give Woowa Brothers a more full-stack solution and is in line with the broader, 360 degree view the company has about robots. In an interview last July, Kim Bong-jin, CEO and Founder of Woowa Brothers, talked about how food delivery robots could be more useful with less idle time. One idea Bong-jin floated was in addition to dropping off food, having a delivery robot take away a customer’s recycling.
Woowa Brothers is just the latest company to partner with a university for robotics research. Last year, Sony teamed up with Carnegie Mellon to develop food robots, and Nividia has a robotic kitchen lab set up with researchers from the University of Washington.
Food is a great application for robotics for a number of reasons. First, everyone eats, so there will always be a market for developing systems that help prepare, cook or deliver food faster. Second, food is oddly shaped, with varying sizes and degrees of fragility, making it difficult to work with. Overcoming the idiosyncrasies of food can make working with more uniform materials easier.