So long soggy slices in cardboard boxes!
But the trucks are still driven by humans! Photo: Zume Pizza
  • When people talk about robots taking over, it's always with a sense of weary foreboding about the dangers of too much technology. But now, a new pizza shop is relying on a hoard of robots to make its pies, and, with pizza part of the equation, suddenly the idea of a robot takeover doesn't sound so bad.
  • Zume Pizza, located in Mountain View, California, not too far from the Google headquarters, is using technology – robots and algorithms – to change how people order and enjoy delivery pizza by essentially hacking every step of of the process, as co-founder Julia Collins puts it. That includes everything from the way that the pizza is prepared right down to the box it is delivered in.

The process goes something like this: a customer places a pizza order through an app, at which point robots put together a 14-inch pizza that they bake about half the way through. The pie is then transferre to its own private mini-oven and placed on a rack inside a UPS-sized delivery truck. The truck holds about 55 other mini-ovens. The pizza can now be delivered. Once the delivery truck is en route to its destinations, an algorithm works to help the driver -- it's a human this time, not a robot -- identify where to go first and how to get there. The algorithm also controls the ovens on the truck, turning each one on about four minutes before it is set to arrive at its destination.

"She doesn't have to think about when to turn the ovens on, whether to turn the ovens off," Collins says of the delivery truck driver, emphasizing just how easy the algorithm makes the new, and seemingly convoluted, delivery process. "She doesn't have to think about what route to take or [whom] to go to first. All of that is driven off of our algorithm." On the delivery truck, once a pizza is finished cooking, it ejected into a special box made of sugar cane fiber ("Pizza is not meant to sit in a cardboard box, ever," according to Collins). Then it's sliced by the driver, and delivered as hot and fresh as a hungry customer could possibly hope for.

Possibly the best thing about Zume, aside from its use of all locally-sourced ingredients and its inventive pizza creations (we'll have two of the fig, prosciutto, and lemon mascarpone-topped 'Notorious F.I.G. pies, please), is that it totally eliminates one of delivery pizza's biggest conundrums: too much demand, and not enough supply. It seems that where manpower falls short in the pizza process, robots have a way of swooping in to save the day. Or at least the pizza.

Watch Sarah Carey make not one but three different pizzas:


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