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Reinventing the meal: Dishes from a robot cook

Robots can help manage Amazon.com's shipping facilities, they can handle heavy hotel baggage, work in a hospital, stock fragile produce, and now there's machine with a robotic arm that can make you a meal.

The idea for the device came to the machine's maker, Sereneti Kitchen CEO Timothy Chen, from his sisters, during a time when Chen worked in the field of robotics.

"They said if you think about it, music and food are almost parallel industries. In music you have a score, just like a recipe because it's instructional. A musician plays music just like a chef cooks food," Chen recalled in an interview with CNBC.

And that conversation sparked a start-up with plans for a cooking machine.

One of the biggest challenges Chen's company first faced was developing a robotic arm. Now it's on its 10th iteration of the contraption, Chen said. The machine, dubbed "Cooki" can make soups, salads, pasta, rice, stews, stir fry, scrambled eggs and other dishes, and recipes are stored on and accessed from a system similar to Apple's iTunes, Chen said.

But the start-up executive's ultimate cooking machine — as well as the company's business plan — is still in its early stages.

As a test, 10 machines are being sent free of charge to 10 San Francisco businesses for employee use, and meals will cost between $5 and $8, Chen wrote in an email.

Meet Cooki, your robotic chef.
Jeniece Pettitt | CNBC
Meet Cooki, your robotic chef.

"In the future you'll be able to order one of these machines for your home. You could either have a meal subscription contract, or you can get meal delivered via mail, by a service like a Blue Apron or a Plated," Chen explained, suggesting that pods with fresh ingredients could also be sold at Whole Foods or Target, popped into a machine and be whipped into a meal at the push of a button.

The machines will be scaled down and have a sleeker design for home use, and will be available to consumers by the end of December 2016, Chen said.

Sereneti adds compartmentalization and automation to what's available from the likes of Blue Apron, which delivers fresh ingredients and a recipe to follow, and gadgets like Perfect Bake and Drop Scale, which help users weigh ingredients and monitor the time for foolproof cooking.

There's at least one thing missing from the Sereneti picture, however: the human touch. Good news for those without the time or desire to prepare a meal.