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AI Does the Dishes

A pioneer in dishwashing robots is reaching into commercial kitchens.
What’s new: Dishcraft Robotics uses machines equipped with computer vision to scrub dirties for corporate food services and, soon, restaurants.
How it works: Every morning, Dishcraft’s biodiesel-fueled trucks deliver clean dishes and utensils to corporate clients near its Silicon Valley hub. At the day’s end, the trucks retrieve them. Back at headquarters, workers load racks of dirty dishes and cutlery into an automated washing machine.

  • The system classifies each item and tailors its cleaning cycle accordingly, a company rep told The Batch.
  • A pose estimation model helps suction-powered robotic arms pass items between scrubbing and rinsing stations, as seen above.
  • Another model inspects items for cleanliness. The company says its sensors can detect particles too small for humans to see.
  • A recent $20 million investment will fund the company’s expansion into reusable takeout containers. Customers will drop off soiled plasticware at set locations, and the company will clean and redistribute it to its restaurant partners.

Behind the news: Other robotics companies are also aiming to disrupt the kitchen.

  • Last year, Toyota Research Institute showed off a mechanical prototype that organizes dishes and silverware in a household dishwasher.
  • Robotics startup Moley built a pair of AI-guided arms capable of cooking everything from soups to macarons. The company plans to release a consumer model this year.

Why it matters: Dishcraft estimates its system saves clients as much as 1.6 gallons of water per meal. Its plan to clean reusable to-go containers could keep tons of waste out of landfills.
We’re thinking: Such machines also could mean fewer bodies in food-service kitchens — a plus in the Covid era but not so much for human staff who may find themselves out of a job.

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