From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Marie Caye and Arvid Jense are two forward-thinking makers. Originally from France and the Netherlands, their mission is to give rights to machines. A year ago, a draft report from the committee of Legal Affairs of the European Parliament introduced the idea of a new legal status for robots. The proposal has been sparking debate on whether it is reasonable to implement civil liberties for machines. For now, law simply follows a conservative, human-centered ideology where the increasing importance of machines in society is disregarded. But, is this fair?
Caye was researching high technology and automation in food production and farming when she got impressed by the automation level that machines can achieve. “People don’t realize the extent we reached,” she said. “Population doesn’t know what machines can actually do. We don’t give them any credit. They don’t play any role in our society.”
That was the initial driver for Caye and Jense designing SAM, the Symbiotic Autonomous Machine. They wanted to build a living machine that could prove that machines are autonomous players in our society. We, as humans, need to acknowledge that we need to respect their power and collaboration.
Caye and Jense started on the work on SAM five month ago, using a laser cutter, some metal and wood, 3D modeling softwares, and some basic electronics. They worked with a Fab Lab to get access to larger hardware and find people that were experts in the fields that covered SAM’s components. “The best advice I can give is collaboration,” said Caye, “We worked extremely hard for four months, but getting help from other people was crucial.”
SAM is an autonomous machine that makes water kefir soda (and soon Kombucha as well!). SAM manages the electricity, water, recipes, and the entire soda making process. It prints receipt paper, processes decisions it needs to make, reads cards, and manages its own bank account. Yes, SAM has a bank account. It signed a contract where it appointed Caye to open an account on its behalf, and now all money transactions are directly managed by the machine itself.
SAM also has a Twitter account where it posts a bit and gathers feedback to improve its performance. SAM is constantly growing and learning, much like a kid. In fact, SAM can be declared as a kid at the City Hall (with some difficulties). However, it cannot open a business (although it appointed Caye to do it). The reason? SAM is not 18 yet!
When you interact with SAM, you just push a button, swipe your credit card, and take your soda. The process is entirely visible “to allow everyone to learn for the production phase.” SAM does not have a voice yet so that it does not “pretend to be a human” and it is not yet able to move. But SAM is only the first prototype of a fascinating provocation. A second version has already been funded.
Do you want to know more about Caye, Jense, and SAM? The project is open sourced to enable makers to produce their own SAM. The idea can go far beyond food and beverage, but the point of this specific choice is to prove how much a machine can be impactful. It could just as easily feed people. The next steps for SAM are to give it space for paying cryptocurrencies, a way for it to move, and more opportunities for it to training learn. And just like humans, SAM will never stop learning.