Gadgets

We tested out the world's first fully automated flatbread robot to see if it's worth the hype

Local invention Rotimatic has done exceptionally well in its first year - but is it worth US$999?
 

Image: Rotimatic

 

When the Prime Minister gives something a shout out at the National Day rally, the country’s interest is piqued. The Rotimatic first stepped into public consciousness in 2016 after Lee Hsien Loong touted its success as a local entrepreneurship endeavour, and one year later, the figures seem to agree.

The Rotimatic, the world’s first fully automatic flatbread robot, raked an incredible US$20 million (over S$26 million) in revenue in its first year of sales. Eight million (and counting) flatbreads have been churned out since its launch. And come 2018, they are set to expand their markets to the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, on top of Singapore and the United States. It’s a pretty incredible feat for a homegrown company.

 

What’s it all about?

The raw ingredients are spun into a dough ball in the compartment on the right, before being cooked and puffed inside the machine itself.
Image: Rotimatic

 

A product by Zimplistic (founded by husband and wife team Rishi Israni and Pranoti Nagarkar) and invented by engineer Pranoti, the Rotimatic took eight years of work before it became a reality. The aim was to deliver a product that creates healthy food with minimal hassle. Even rookie cooks will understand that making flatbread from scratch is laborious and time-consuming (kneading, measuring, what have you), and you’ll need patience and the skills. The Rotimatic was created to eliminate the fuss - thanks to some clever engineering and Artificial Intelligence, it churns out flatbreads once you press ‘Play’. 

 

How does it work?

Any fears that the Rotimatic is hard to set up and use were quickly dispelled. We dare say that even our parents wouldn’t run into too much trouble. The instructions were clear: you download the Rotimatic mobile app (which also contains recipes and a helpdesk), connect the machine to WiFi, and voila, the machine comes to life. All you need to do next is fill its compartments with oil, water and flour, select your preferences for thickness, roast level and oil on a touchscreen, and the machine gets to work.  The dough is created and rolled, and then flattened, cooked and puffed. 

 

 

via GIPHY

 

Our only hiccup was when our machine refused to connect to the WiFi in our office (turns out, it runs on 2.4Ghz frequency and our office runs on 5Ghz), but that was easily remedied once we used our phone as a hotspot. Not a big deal, considering most home routers would run on 2.4Ghz anyway. That aside, it took us mere minutes to get everything going.

If you’re making single flatbread, it’ll clock around two and a half minutes. But it speeds up significantly if you’re making a batch (you can decide the quantity on the touchscreen), averaging around 90 seconds per flatbread.

The machine also comes with a cleaning brush, which was effective in getting in every nook and cranny. No one likes to clean post-cooking, and thankfully this didn’t take long.

 

So – does it do the job? 

Unequivocally, yes. The instructions advise that the machine needs to get through 10 flatbreads before hitting its stride, and this was true – the first few had a couple of imperfections. But once you hit a baker’s dozen, the flatbreads are consistently perfect. We were the popular kids in the office as curious colleagues asked for a taste, and then kept coming back for more.

For time-strapped individuals who don’t want to resort to eating frozen food or takeaways, you’ll appreciate what this machine can do. We like the versatility of the machine (especially being able to adjust the thickness and roast levels), and at the moment there are options to make roti and puri (which you’ll have to fry on your own). Pizza bases are set to launch in January 2018, and other variants such as tortillas and wraps are in the works.  And with multiple recipes on the Rotimatic Facebook group, you can make flavoured flatbreads and get creative. We tried our hand at a spinach and onion one, which got rave reviews from our team.

 

via GIPHY

 

Another plus is that thanks to the connectivity to WiFi, this means that whenever new features for the machine are launched, the Rotimatic will automatically update its software and troubleshooting capabilities. So there’s no need to faff around with manual updates, or (as with other electronic appliances) need to buy a new version every couple of years. This connectivity means when you contact the support team via the app, they can monitor any problems and provide assistance remotely.

 

What’s the catch?

There’s no beating around the bush – at a hefty US$999, it’s not something you casually buy on the spur of the moment. We concede that the Rotimatic has a number of features that could justify its price (the automated updates are one) and that it’s an incredible invention, but for you to get your money’s worth, you’ll need to be making flatbreads fairly frequently within its shelf life of 5 to 6 years. Large families will reap the most from it.  

 

Pizzas, crisps and wraps are just some examples of what you can whip up with the Rotimatic.
Image: Rotimatic

 

It’s also worth noting that this machine is loud. To give you an idea, it’s not as loud as a vacuum cleaner but it’s louder than a microwave. Whether this bothers you is up to individual preference (after the first alarm we got used to the noise), but if you’re craving flatbread in the middle of the night we wager that you might wake light sleepers.

New users should also note that the Rotimatic works best with certain types of flour (one example is the Aashirwaad brand), which some might find limiting. That being said, you can still use your flour of choice - because the Rotimatic has built-in intelligence and learning capabilities, it will recalibrate and will take awhile longer to adjust to the new flour before producing consistent flatbreads. 

Our take: just like how techies are shelling out for the latest iPhone X (which has a larger price tag), the Rotimatic is worth it if you use it every day. No one ever heard of someone buying an iPhone X and leaving it to gather dust in a corner, and the same rules apply.

Now excuse us, we’ve got more spinach flatbreads to make.

 

Rotimatic, retails globally at US$999 (excluding taxes and shipping costs), available at www.rotimatic.com.