The robot can automatically bake ten fresh "artisan" loaves per hour
Credit: Courtesy of Wilkinson Baking Company

We’ve always been told that robots are coming for our jobs, and certainly, in some industries, that’s been the case. But what about something as handmade as “artisan bread?” Can a robot really replicate the flavor and feel of a loaf of bread from a local baker? The Wilkinson Bread Company, makers of The BreadBot, say, why the heck not?

Debuting this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, The BreadBot does boast some pretty impressive specs: In just 90 minutes, the all-in-one bread-making machine churns out its first loaf, and then proceeds to make a new loaf every six minutes, meaning users get ten loaves of fresh bread per hour. Additionally, the machine can run up to 24 hours at a time, for a grand total of as many as 235 loaves per day.

It’s able to maintain such efficiency because it requires extremely minimal human effort: “The BreadBot mixes, forms, proofs, bakes,” the company boasts, “all on its own and is capable of making most varieties of bread that require dry ingredients — including white, wheat, whole wheat, nine grain, sourdough and honey oat.” When it’s done, all the robot asks for in return is 30 minutes of cleaning.

Watch a video of an earlier version of the BreadBot in action below (sound is minimal):

According to tech site CNET, the product isn’t aimed at home bakers (to be fair, who needs 235 loaves of a bread a day?), instead positioning itself as an eye-catching option at grocery stores. Along those lines, the machine has an estimated cost of $100,000 over a five-year lease.

But as cool as The BreadBot sounds, the language Wilkinson Bread—which bills itself as a family-owned business—uses to describe the robot is just as intriguing. The BreadBot “harnesses the marvels of modern technology to take us back to the old world with its artisan bread that is tasty and nutritious,” the company says at one point.

Later, CEO Randall Wilkinson has a similarly nostalgic sentiment. “Bread is a staple of American life. But in most supermarkets today, it has lost its emotional connection with the shopper," he states. "In the age of home delivery, The BreadBot attracts consumers back to the store because it delivers fresh, delicious bread that is produced with theater and engagement.”

We all knew that one day robots would be able to do pretty much anything, but are we really to believe that robot-made bread is “artisan” and provides a more “emotional connection” than bread made by a human, even if we’ve never seen that human before? I guess it really depends on how good this bread is, huh?

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