This is part one of a two-part interview with Blendid co-founder and CEO, Vipin Jain. Come back tomorrow to read part two.
Vipin was always fascinated by science fiction: especially Star Trek. He wants you to know he also loves Star Wars, but if he had to choose, deep down, he’s a Trekkie. He was drawn-in by the way the show imagined the future. From teleportation to universal translators and laptop computers, the idea of technology excited him.
“But the thing I liked the most, was the replicator. It was a beautiful system that could create food and water from pure energy. And it would create food to your taste and perfection every single time,” Vipin explains. It’s not hard to imagine that this might excite any youngster; the idea of perfect food. But for Vipin, he didn’t forget. The idea of a replicator stuck in his head.
Enter Venki Ayalur, co-founder of Blendid and the perfect partner.
Vipin, Venki and Vijay, the three founders of Blendid, met while working together at Barnes and Noble Nook. “Venki had always been interested in preserving the recipe that his grandma made for him when he was a child. Sure, others had made the dish he craved over the years,” Vipin said, “but no one made it the way his grandmother did. In fact, he was looking for a way to digitize recipes so they could be played back. That’s how our discussion started.”
The two talked about what it would take to replicate a recipe. What were all the factors involved in executing just one dish. This was 2015 and they spent most of their time coming up with ideas and testing their theories. Venki had managed to create a robot that could prepare a dish. But it was still relatively simple and producing predictable results continued to be a challenge.
“We wanted to build a replicator that could execute food exactly the way it was intended to be made, exactly the way you like it on any day or at any time,” Vipin said.
“This is crazy. Is it doable? We don’t know what’s possible!”
Vipin and Venki started playing with robots. They spent probably six months in Venki’s garage trying different things. Some worked, some didn’t. It was an evolutionary process of trial and error but eventually the two were able to create a relationship between the software and robot that was delivering predictable results.
“Sure, our robot wasn’t truly a replicator – it couldn’t make food from pure energy – but it was able to create food predictably,” Vipin is smiling. “We realized this was doable!” Now we had to pick our beachhead, build it and scale it.
“It’s funny, when we started, we literally did not know food could be replicated. All we had was this sketch on a piece of paper as to what it might look like and a list of necessary components.” Vipin smiles again with a glint of satisfaction. “What we have today is not very far from where we started. This is one of those ideas where we stuck to the original idea and it worked.”
Tomorrow to read part two: Putting Our Artificial Intelligence-Based Robot to Work