Robot Chef - Service Robots

Robot Chef

Robot chefs: a taste of things to come?

Does the idea of a robot waitress fascinate you? How about a robot chef that can actually ‘taste’ the ingredients and meals it’s preparing? The latter may be a real possibility thanks to a team of American researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Davis.

Speed and productivity

This presents the ideal pay-off between ability and subtlety in robots, such that they’d be able to experience the human environment in a way that’s truer to our own; crucially, however, they’d be performing in that environment with far greater efficiency. Of course, most people would probably prefer their romantic three-course meal at an authentic French restaurant to be prepared by an authentic French chef, but robot technology is often best applied on larger scales. Thus you can imagine schools, hotels and airports, where speed and productivity are paramount, hiring teams of robot chefs.

Striking possibilities

By embedding cutting-edge technology in an electronic hand, the scientists have created a bio-hybrid robot that can ‘taste’ with touch. While it’s early days, they believe the technology could make robots better equipped to respond to the sensory world around them — and the possibilities are striking. According to a press release, the research combines ‘flexible electronics and robotic skin with synthetic biology’, bringing the state of the art ‘closer to future breakthroughs like soft biohybrid robots that can adapt their abilities to sense, feel and move in response to changes in their environmental conditions’.

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A potential revolution

Virtually tireless, these robocooks would work around the clock without making mistakes or forgetting orders, and the new research suggests they wouldn’t just be going through the motions. They could sample their ingredients, smell when something’s burning, and even suggest improvements to recipes based on finely-tuned chemical receptors. Meanwhile, hygiene standards would be vastly improved, potentially revolutionising the fast-food industry and the diets of millions. This is yet another example of how anxiety over automation is misplaced when the benefits are so obvious — and it’s why we believe so passionately in sharing the power of robotics with the world.

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