Earlier this year, a company called Open Meals caused a bit of a ruckus on the internet when it announced a new sushi technology that custom-crafts recipes according to each customer’s biology. To dine at Tokyo’s Sushi Singularity, you don’t just have to make a reservation — you also must send in a fecal sample. Seriously.
Guests who plan to dine at the restaurant receive a health test kit in the mail, which includes vials for collecting various bodily fluids. You then send back the samples, and your genome and nutritional status are analyzed to create your signature “Health ID,” which contains info about which nutrients you need most.
But how is it possible to make sushi with such precise nutritional requirements when it typically just consists of some rice, seaweed, raw fish, and vegetables? Well, the sushi chefs aren’t exactly in the back of the restaurant chopping ingredients. Everything is prepared by an enormous 3D printer with robotic arms, which injects vitamins and minerals into the food.
The company provided some renderings at the time of what they expected the sushi to look like. Now, we can see photographs that show us just how weird 3D-printed sushi really is. With the way the 3D printer “extrudes” each piece of sushi, the result is strikingly pixelated, looking like something straight out of Super Mario Brothers.
Visitors to the South by Southwest (SXSW) trade show got to see how the machine works in person, and it’s honestly pretty wild. Reactions were generally positive, with people raving about how futuristic it all looked. It’s probably safe to say sushi purists won’t be rushing to Sushi Singularity to eat these sculptural assemblages of “edible gels,” but we will start to see reviews of how the food tastes when Open Meals opens its first Sushi Singularity restaurant in 2020.
Open Meals is quite eager for robots to transcend human knowledge of sushi, explaining: “A world which sees sushi going digital and linked with the net will come about. Two revolutions are envisioned: 1) sushi will connect people around the world, and it will be produced, edited, and shared online in the form of ‘new sushi.’ 2) sushi combined with biometrics will enable hyper-personalization based on biometric and genomic data. Sushi will break away from conventional concepts of food and be continually revised and updated at exponential speed! Humans know nothing about sushi!”
“Hyper-personalization will become common for future foods. Based on DNA, urine, and intestinal tests, people will each have individual health IDs. This identity is analyzed, and nutritional matching is performed to match nourishment needs with biometrics. [T] hus the person is automatically provided with the optimal diet. When restaurant reservations are made, test kits such as ‘genes,’ ‘enterobacteriaceae,’ and ‘nutritional status’ are sent, and health IDs are issued with data on finely tuned constitution and undernourishment.”
Is this really the future of food? Do we want it to be? Your answer to that question might depend just how into the concept of a robot takeover you are — or how much you like products like Soylent, which are undeniably convenient, but not really food.