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The great potential of robotics in image recognition for restaurants

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The restaurants and bars of our country have had the worst part of this pandemic. Industry is shivering after full shutdown and subsequent tight period. Capacity limitations, distancing needs, sanitization and disinfection that harden now even, since sprouts are on the rise throughout Spain.

Some analysts point out that the inventiveness and determination that characterize restaurant professionals may not be enough to cope this time.. So that, Paul Goethals, researcher at the University of Wageningen (Netherlands), puts on the table that the use of robots equipped with image recognition systems could have a place in the world of restaurants; at least they are being great help in the food industry.

He coronavirus has brought a new trend: social distancing. And with it the door to restoration robotics opens, that has been little explored at the moment in Europe, but that little by little it is making its way in Asia and the United States. THE.

Although implantation is still very early, There are already affordable waitress robot solutions on the market so that any place can start using it right now.. Nevertheless, the greatest potential is presented, possibly, in organized restoration, and more specifically in the fast food niche.

Fast food restaurants are racking their brains to organize protocols to reduce the preparation time of the items they offer even if the profit is only a second or two. Extrapolated to the entire set of locations managed by a brand, this can make a substantial difference in the corporation's annual profitability.

A problem in this type of establishment is that the procedures to be carried out by the workers are very rigid, which implies that there are not enough breaks and that the tasks are very repetitive, sometimes deriving in health problems linked to repeated efforts (tendinitis and similar pathologies). This is a reality that has affected Starbucks, for example, who has had to face legal battles in the US on more than one occasion. THE. due to work-related injuries suffered by your employees during the performance of their activity.

Among the technologies associated with restaurant robotics and image recognition that could be useful in fast food restaurants are the spatial positioning of ingredients Y ensure consistency in brand products; one to termic vision, which would allow you to easily know when an ingredient is at its correct cooking point.

In other more traditional settings, Image-recognition robots can perform public-facing tasks such as reception of the clientele at the reception, he guided of newcomers to the tables they have reserved or the distribution of dishes on the tables. In this case, it is not necessary to have cutting-edge technologies such as 3D Time of Flight, that allows detecting objects, its positioning and depth; Instead, it is enough to use widely extended systems with proven functionality such as Intel RealSense O Sony DepthSense, whose role is establish an obstacle-free route through the premises and trace a new path in the event that a moving object obstructs the initially determined path.

Another niche that can benefit greatly from restoration robotics is, in the opinion of Peter Gwilliam, Restaurant chef Pastoral de Boston (Massachusetts, OF. UU.), the one with the casual restaurants. Here the client wants to enjoy a quality meal for a moderate amount and without having to wait long to taste it.. Since no memorable experience is actively sought when visiting this type of premises, the use of robots is more than justified, well it allows expand profit margins keeping prices static, or even lower the amounts to launch a claim among potential customers who may frequent the area of ​​influence of the premises.

Restoration robotics does not have to directly replace workers, but it can help with hiring. The replacement rate in the world of catering is very high, and in recent years there is also a certain lack of demand for jobs in the sector, so restaurant managers have to deal with many headaches when filling these jobs. The food processors can be used as spare personnel while looking for new employees or when there is an unexpected temporary leave, allowing the establishment to operate at full capacity even in the middle of the recruitment and recruitment process.

On the other hand, image recognition robots have not yet reached a point where they are completely independent while cooking. Tasks how to select, taking and handling various ingredients is almost impossible yet, hence a real trend that is emerging in some restaurants is the cobotic; Or what is the same, the use of cobots robots or collaborative. In this way, while human personnel develop complex tasks, the robot you cooperate with executes the repetitive tasks. Flippy, the famous robotic arm that flips hamburger steaks is a clear example of this premise, but he's not the only one, in some pizzerias (juice O Domino’s Pizza for example) we can also witness this kind of facilities.

Probably the niche where robotics for restoration equipped with image recognition is least likely to be implemented is that of luxury restaurants. Diners who visit these places seek to enjoy a different food in every way, including a personalized service that a robot is far from being able to offer. Except for maintenance applications, provisioning and cleaning of the premises, robots seem to have no place in fancy restaurants.

The biggest impediment to a new generation of robots taking over the industry's business is high initial cost. The investment required is steep, and the narrow margins and practically no savings capacity in the sector do not allow the technology to proliferate at the moment, with the exception of large organized restoration operations already tested by some applications.

Nevertheless, everything could change in the next few years. Josh Goldberg, vice president of research and development for juice (the previously mentioned robotic pizzeria), indicates that there are already systems on the market valued at less than 200 dollars consisting of a high resolution smart camera and controller Raspberry Pi completamente configurable. Although this solution is only available to fans of new technologies, a paradigm shift is foreseeable shortly, as the price of commercialized solutions is reduced.

In the meantime, robots used in the food industry to control quality and reduce human handling, could find a new niche in restaurants. In Spain, the company specialized in cured meats COVAP employs collaborative robotic arms UR10 from Universal Robotics to pack Iberian ham slices and other products. This same system could be used, for example, for enter orders for delivery in their respective containers before being transported. These types of simple applications will be the first that we will observe in our bars and restaurants, but as automata spread and machine learning improves when it comes to image recognition, we will see models capable of executing increasingly complex tasks, until the machines take over completely the restaurant chores that do not add value based on the interaction with the customer.

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Article by the editorial team of DiegoCoquillat.com. It has professionals both in the field of hospitality, gastronomy and tourism, and new technologies and innovation.

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