Illustration for article titled Sally the Robot angling to replace the salad bar in your local grocery store
Photo: Xinhua News Agency (Getty Images)

It’s been only four days since The Takeout last called up its official Robot Patrol™ (which is me) to do one of our regular check-ins, yet here we are—on a Monday, no less!—back for another report. It seems the robots have gotten pretty comfortable in this age of coronavirus, using it as the perfect cover to infiltrate our society under the guise of hygiene so that they can win the humans’ trust and adoration before they inevitably turn on them. These robots may seem innocuous, but that’s what they want you to think, because it takes only one single robot to become sentient before the whole lot of them flip “loveable helpers” to “bloodthirsty oppressors.” It seems obvious to this conspiracy theorist that the robot that shall kick off the revolution more than likely won’t be one of Boston Dynamics’ Murderbots, but rather one that that nobody would ever expect... like a vending machine for salads.

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Reporting on ways that supermarkets are adapting to the new retail challenges imposed by coronavirus, CNBC shone a spotlight on California-based Chowbotics, the company behind the adorably named Sally the Robot. Each Sally can hold up to 22 ingredients and can freshly prepare a variety of pre-programmed “chef crafted” meals—ranging from acai bowls to grain salads to blueberry upside-down cake—in 90 seconds or less. In a pre-COVID world, Chowbotics was selling the $35,000 robots primarily to colleges and hospitals, two places that have round-the-clock demand for fresh, healthy food; when the coronavirus pandemic began tearing through America, closing college campuses and locking down hospitals, the company began to look at other markets.Meanwhile, grocery stores have been forced to eliminate their salad bars and prepared food buffets due to safety concerns, creating the perfect opportunity for a vast army of Sallys to invade the lives hundreds of millions of Americans.

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So far Chowbotics says it has signed three grocery store deals and has initiated pilot programs with several others. Sally has been such a success that some store owners have requested that in addition to prepared foods, they’d like to see versions of Sally that dispense prepped meals for customers to finish cooking at home. How long will it take for Sally to eventually overtake every position in the supermarket? Will she and Marty the shelf stocking/murder witnessing robot fall in love and have little robot babies that run on ranch dressing and human blood? This expert’s guess: probably.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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