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This sushi restaurant's secret ingredient is AI

Would you trust artificial intelligence to make your next Dragon Roll?

Kura Sushi uses AI to make high-end sushi.
Kura Sushi

The next time you order sushi from your favorite Japanese restaurant, you might have artificial intelligence to thank, in addition to the sushi chef. 

A popular Japanese conveyor belt sushi chain, Kura Sushi, is experimenting with an unusual menu item -- specialty sushi made from aged fish analyzed by AI.

Kura Sushi uses an app called Tuna Scope, developed by Japanese advertising company Dentsu. The app finds the premium parts of a tuna and other fish by analyzing the cross section of its tail using artificial intelligence to determine the freshest, most high-quality fish for sushi.


The Tuna Scope app uses artificial intelligence to find the best fish.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

"Through deep learning, bulks of cross-sectional tail images and data on quality assessments conducted by master artisans, we successfully passed on this sophisticated Japanese skill to the AI system," according to the Tuna Scope website. "By doing so, we made it possible to assess the quality of tuna anywhere in the world, simultaneously, with remarkable accuracy." 

High-end sushi in Japan is often prepared with aged fish. An expert sushi chef ages the fish by wrapping the meat in a cloth and storing it for a specific period of time inside a controlled environment like a refrigerator. The fish proteins eventually break down to produce the taste known as umami.

Kura Sushi has an in-house processing center in its central kitchen that makes it possible to thoroughly control the aging time, humidity and water temperature at the time of thawing, as well as the saltwater concentration of the fish.

Thanks to the use of AI that identifies the best parts of the fish to age, Kura Sushi has been able to serve quality aged fish -- which isn't typical in conveyor belt sushi restaurant chains -- in its tuna and yellowtail nigiri sushi.