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As a kid growing up in the 80s, I had imagined that by the year 2015, we’d either be waging war against an army of unstoppable killing machines of our own creation or zipping to work by hoverboard (or perhaps in phallus-shaped train pods) while enjoying eggs ‘n’ bacon in tablet form. Alas, science has let me down on both fronts, with the closest thing I have in my life to robot warfare being Apple constantly bugging me to sign in to the Cloud or Facebook suddenly deciding that we all have to download a totally separate smartphone app just to receive private messages.

But at least we can now let machines make our bento lunches look pretty while we’re busy ironing a shirt or looking for the keys to our stupid, dead dinosaur-fuelled cars. Say hello to Lunchbot.

With a vast assortment of flavours to choose from, furikake (lit. “shake over”) flakes can be an absolute lifesaver when it comes to bento lunches. While rice is still by far the most popular choice for packed lunches in Japan, few would argue that the white stuff can get a bit tiresome after a while, so sprinkling some salmon, garlic, or even pickled plum over it can liven it up no end.

But Keio University’s Yoshihiro Asano clearly felt that adding furikake flakes to his rice each morning was too mundane a chore to handle personally. Sure, he enjoys seeing a cute pattern or design on his lunch, but who has the time to do that when you’ve been up all night tinkering with 3-D printers and writing programs for said fledgling technology? Hence his creation of Lunchbot.

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Using special furikake cartridges, Lunchbot sprinkles tasty powder onto a bed of rice placed on a 3-D printer’s bed. With the desired pattern loaded into an accompanying program, the little machine sets to work peppering the rice with delicious flakes of Yoshihiro’s choosing.

▼ The program converts images into simple patterns for Lunchbot to replicate

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▼ Place your rice box into the machine…

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▼ …and off it goes!

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▼ Cute. And probably pretty tasty to boot.

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True, Lunchbot’s creations aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing at this point in its development and would almost certainly bring tears to the eyes of any child used to receiving one of the incredible homemade character bento lunches Japan is known for. But with a little honing, Lunchbot could well prove to be a nifty little addition to any self-respecting bento artist’s toolkit, or perhaps even find a home on convenience store food production lines. After all, who could say no to a boxed lunch with a smiley face or an inspiring message written on it in something tasty?

Source/images: YouTube Asayo Dayo