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Future Tech: The Robotic Chef

Future Tech: The Robotic Chef

A robotics company has created a robotic chef which can cook thousands of recipes and even do the dishes when it’s done.

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Moley Robotics

A prototype of the robot chef, called Moley Robot Master Chef, was shown in April 2015 at the Hannover Messe technology fair in Germany.

Compared to something right out of The Jetsons, this unit contains two human-like arms and hands which dangle from the top of the machine, and can cook complete meals. To achieve its lifelike motion, the robot recorded hand movements of 2011 BBC Masterchef champion Tim Anderson with a 3D camera and exactly duplicated those motions.

According to the company website moley.com, only a demonstration unit is available now, but the consumer version is slated to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2017. The unit will feature an “iTunes style library of recipes.” Early press releases state that the final product would contain a built-in fridge and dishwasher, although this information is lacking from the product website in January 2016.

A consumer version is expected to cost around $15,000. It has been speculated that the robo-chef may find a place in restaurants or fast food locations, but it is not clear if the unit is designed to handle high volumes. As it exists now, owners must place the ingredients out for the robot, but they do not have to do the actual cooking.

Hands

Moley incorporated robotic hands developed by the Shadow Robot company. These hands each have 20 motors, 24 joints, and 129 sensors, all of which gives the hands their human-like motion. Rich Walker of Shadow Robots told IBTimes UK that the hands took about 17 years to develop.

The video below shows a good representation of the robot in action.

The final consumer version is expected to include cameras which will allow consumers to “record” recipes which are then taught to the robot, and can be shared with other owners.

Questions

Those with a skeptical eye have noted that some of the demonstration videos are animated and do not show the real unit in action (the 1:11 mark of the first video above, for example, shows an unnatural flipping of the spoon). Others have questioned how delicate of movements the robot may be able to achieve. A sushi chef told IBTimes UK, “With sushi, I’m not quite sure if it will have enough dexterity…”

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Those who expect an assembly-line speed robot may also be disappointed, as Mark Oleynik of Moley noted, “…it’s a device that moves like you move, and at the same speed as you do.”

Some commenters have also questioned how well the robot will handle any variations from what is expected, such as if an ingredient is harder, softer, larger, or smaller than expected, or if an owner does not put the ingredients in the proper location – or if an ingredient is in a different type of container than expected (what if the sugar is in a bowl, for example, rather than in a jar?).

One would expect that the questions above will likely be answered in future demonstrations.

Bottom Line

Moley Robotics unveiled a prototype of a robotic chef which can cook 2000 recipes. The product is expected to be available in 2017 for about $15,000. Demonstrations have been limited, and there are some questions as to the practicality, dexterity, and adaptability of the final product.

Would you buy one?

Updated January 28, 2016
Originally published May 2015

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