For Pranoti Nagarkar, frustration was the mother of invention. Making fresh rotis, the traditional flatbreads that South Asians enjoy with their meals, has traditionally fallen to the women in the family, often leaving them trapped at the stove while their families enjoy the meal.
But Nagarkar, who often cooked a full meal — rotis included — after a long workday as an engineer, dreamed of a way to solve that problem and free women to join their families at the table.
Or, you know, indulge their love of fine art while their husbands set the table. Whatever. The point is, she didn’t want women trapped at the stove any longer.
So Nagarkar and her partner, Rishi Israni, invented a robot that would take the hassle out of having to constantly hand-shape and crank out the many rotis consumed with each meal.
The result is the Rotimatic, which looks like a bread machine but uses robotics to do much more. The human operator fills the appropriate containers with flour, water, and oil:
Then she pushes a couple of buttons to tell the machine how many rotis are desired and at what thickness.
The Rotimatic mixes the flour, water, and oil; creates a ball of dough; moves it into the baking apparatus; flattens it; allows the built-up steam to puff it up; flattens and bakes it again; and then pushes it out of the machine onto a waiting tray.
It does this all in the space of a minute. You guys, you can have 20 fresh rotis in 21 minutes. They’re flat enough to be used for wraps, and you can use whole grain or any kind of flour you want, so they’re healthy too.
The demo video that Zimplistic, Nagarkar and Ishrani’s company, posted on YouTube has garnered well over 2 million views since it was posted in late 2013, and the reaction among Indian and other South Asian viewers has been unanimous: How can I buy one?
Nagarkar told Yahoo Tech that Zimplistic would start taking preorders for the Rotimatic on June 26, with units initially shipping to the United States and Singapore sometime in the spring of 2015.
The price point, compared with regular, non-robotic bread machines, is a bit high: For those who preorder the machine, the Rotimatic will cost $599, and for those who buy it after the release, the machine will cost $999. When asked about the price points, Nagarkar says the cost of making roti using the Rotimatic is much lower than buying them premade.
That’s a good way to rationalize an expense like that, but for the South Asian housewife who has spent her life in the kitchen, the chance to dine with her family and enjoy the meal may be the best rationale of all.