The most significant thing to come out of CES Asia was the demonstration of a robot kitchen. As with many things the ideas from the cartoon The Jetsons, are now being brought to reality. Having a robot in your kitchen that cooks for you is a future many people look forward to. Armed with two of the most sophisticated hands, this robot can indeed prepare meals for you.
The hands are have an amazing dexterity in their movements, approaching that available in the human hand. Gone are clunky claws, instead now we have a hand by a London-based company called Shadow Robot, that contains a massive 24 joints. This gives the robot amazing dexterity and has the capacity to make fine motor movements required for common cooking tasks.
To demonstrate the capabilities and talk about the future ramifications of this technology, they bought out the winner of Masterchef UK, Tim Anderson. He spoke passionately about how the cooking demonstration was created. Basically he cooked a meal (a crab bisque), multiple times, while wearing a motion capture suit.
With the ingredients prepared and placed in the correct positions, the robot can accurately repeat the process and take your input of raw materials and turn them into the finished product of a meal.
It’s would certainly be a strange look to your kitchen to have two massive arms hanging out of the wall, but the kitchen design does remain completely usable by humans. One key reason for this is that they see a future where users, in their homes, wear motion capture devices that record the steps to create their favourite meal. This information could then be uploaded and shared with others across the globe, or even sold. It’s an interesting proposition to think you may only need to cook a meal once, then get the robot to do it every time after that. For those who have a scheduled menu, or regular meals, this would work great.
During the demonstration a question from the audience asked what happens if you substitute ingredients, how would it know? The answer is, at this stage, it wouldn’t. Right now it’s sophisticated technology, but certainly not smart. It can only follow a pre-prepared instruction set and doesn’t have any senses that a human does. It can’t sample food before adding it, or test the temperature of things, even use object recognition to detect one things from another. All of that is planned for the future.
The company, Moley, also had a second smart bench on their display. This one had unique circular tubes that would slide out from the bench, as well as drawers with built-in LEDs. With no explanation offered to the real world benefits of such a design, we can only imagine, they could be convenient control options to select regular meals and progress indicators. What was interesting to see was their concepts of what a final product could look like and additional functions it could perform.
The design resembled that of an arm from the movie iRobot, which I’m not sure is the right direction to head. The video also showed the robot kitchen placing dishes in the dishwasher and retrieving them when done. Of course when it comes to cooking, the inevitable question about cleaning arise. As something most people hate, it’s good to see they understand people’s needs and will aim to address that in the future. For right now, it’s a neat demo, but is very clearly early days when it comes to a very dramatic example of home automation.
One feature the Chef through out, was the plan to have the necessary ingredients delivered to your house, before you need it. He says all the necessary pieces to the puzzle are in place, but it just hasn’t been combined in a seamless way yet. Obviously if you live in America, Amazon will deliver food products to your door the next day, or in some areas, the same day. With a bit of preparation, you future relationship with the kitchen could change dramatically.
Sadly during one of the demonstrations at CES Asia, the robot failed.