Robots Are Coming for Your Kitchen
A London-based company called Moley Robotics has created a prototype for a robotic chef that can cook your meals with human-like precision.
"It's the ultimate sous-chef," says Tim Anderson, the 2011 champion of British reality show BBC Masterchef. "You tell it to do something—whether it's a bit of prep or completing a whole dish from start to finish—and it will do it. And it will do it the same every single time."
The “robochef” was unveiled this week at the Hannover Messe international robotics show in Germany. It’s the brainchild of Mark Oleynik, and it consists of two human-sized robotic hands powered by dozens of joints and motors. They hang above a cooking station that comes fully stocked with a stovetop and specialized utensils. A hungry user need just choose a recipe from the robochef’s digital library using the built-in touchscreen or the mobile app, and let the autonomous hands take it from there. The robot picks ingredients, stirs concoctions, and manages the stovetop’s temperature. Here’s a video of the bot showing off its skills with a crab bisque recipe:
The robot’s cooking skills seem eerily human-like, and that’s the point. The machine learns a new recipe by copying the movements of a real chef who wears special, sensor-fitted gloves while preparing a meal. The chef’s movements are recorded and translated into an algorithm that can be programmed into the robochef’s recipe library. The crab bisque prepared in the video was originally prepared by Anderson. “Crab bisque is a challenging dish for a human chef to make, never mind a robot,” Anderson told TIME.com. “If it can make bisque, it can make a whole lot of other things.”
Indeed, the plan is to load the robochef with more than 2000 recipes created by various chefs, “in effect, bringing a virtual version of a celebrity chef into the user’s house to cook it for him,” The Economist notes. Each recipe will be prepared in the exact same way every single time.
Oleynik hopes to start selling the robotic kitchen to consumers in 2017 for about $15,000, but it will need a few improvements before then. The current version can’t prepare ingredients, which have to be chopped or peeled by a human and then meticulously positioned in specific spots for the bot to find. Oleynik wants the future robochef to be a full kitchen, including a fridge for storing ingredients and a dishwasher for cleaning them off of plates. The bot may eventually help teach human chefs proper technique for specific cooking skills like chopping or kneading. "It's not an industrial device,” Oleynik says. “It's not a device that works at 10-times normal speed. No, it's a device that moves like you move, and at the same speed as you do."