A US-based AI robotics company focused on commercial kitchen automation has raised an oversubscribed $5.5m (£4.2m) seed round that will be used to expand its engineering, sales and product teams.
The funding, led by Hyperplane Venture Capital, will allow the company to serve new cuisines and fuel its growth in the foodservice space.
Dexai was born out of a research collaboration in artificial intelligence for robotics among researchers at The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, MIT, and Harvard.
The work, led by David MS Johnson, Dexai’s CEO and co-founder, resulted in breakthrough software innovations that enabled robots to control, for the first time, deformable materials such as ice cream, sushi-grade tuna and pico de gallo.
At the same time, Anthony Tayoun, Dexai’s CFO and co-founder, was pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School, when he was struck by the huge labour gap in the restaurant industry.
“Each restaurant operator I spoke with complained that their most difficult challenge is finding, training, and retaining staff,” he said. “We founded Dexai to address the 150,000-person labour shortage in the restaurant industry, so that restaurants can focus on hospitality and, by robots handling repetitive tasks, workforce satisfaction.”
‘Alfred’ claims to be the only robot that works in existing kitchens, and prepares meals from different cuisines faster, safer, and more affordably.
It can be dropped into existing kitchens because its artificial intelligence software recognises its surroundings and adapts to the task at hand.
And because it uses standard utensils, it can make ice cream sundaes for one customer, quinoa bowls for another and poke for a third, exceeding human capabilities in speed and precision.
The system is attractive to restaurants because it can potentially be placed into a kitchen environment without any alteration to a restaurant’s layout or recipes.
Dexai management believe the technology can meet the challenges of the foodservice industry, particularly given the rise of delivery and rapid growth of ghost kitchens and food ordering platforms.