When we think about robotics, the typical image that usually crosses our minds, due to Hollywood’s massive influence, is something futuristic that looks surreal and almost impossible to market. Chappie, Ex-machina and I, Robot are just a few examples of numerous movies produced about robotics integrating in human society. It has been predicted for ages that automised machines, combined with advanced artificial intelligence, will play a significant part in our daily lives.
Mark Oleynik, founder and CEO of Moley Robotics, is well-aware of the future of robotics and of the fact that they could facilitate and improve certain aspects of our busy lives. For example, because of their crammed schedules, people tend to resort to fast food instead of preparing healthy meals at home, which leads to the alarming increase of obesity and type 2 diabetes rates. Concerned about these numbers and noticing the increased interest of consumers for healthy eating (with millennials leading the way), Oleynik invented a solution: the world’s first robotic kitchen. His main goal is to make people’s lives better, healthier and happier.
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It almost sounds too good to be true: a fully-automated kitchen that you can operate from a distance through an app, cooks with the skill and flair of a master chef and even cleans up afterwards. If we are to believe Moley robotics, this probability will turn into a possibility by the end of 2017, when the customer version of this robot chef will have been launched. The story of the robot kitchen originates from 2014, when Oleynik came up with the idea and applied for patents. By September 2014, the Moley team had already built a prototype, that was premiered at the international robotics show at Hannover Messe. In 2015, they presented their robot kitchen at the Consumer Electronics Show in Shanghai, winning the “Best of the Best” award and instigating public interest even more.
Hot tweetaway: The world’s first #robotic #kitchen by @Char_Nijssen via @CoolBrands #nextgen #future #homecooking
The automated kitchen will consist of two fully articulated robot arms – the stars of the show –, an oven, hob, dishwasher, fridge and touchscreen unit and it will be integrated in such a way that it will nicely complement the rest of the kitchen space. It has the same fundamental features of a standard kitchen, apart from a personal chef taking over all the hard work. The robot kitchen is not supported by artificial intelligence, but instead it relies on an iTunes style library of recipes. This library was created with the help of the winner of BBC’s MasterChef, Tim Anderson. He cooked the recipes wearing cyber gloves as he was being filmed by 3D motion capture technology, that recorded every movement, nuance and flourish. The robot hands copy these exact movements with the same speed and sensitivity, giving the robot kitchen some sort of friendly, human-like appearance.
No less than 2,000 recipes will have been uploaded into the recipe library; the consumer can choose the meal he wants and even indicate his favorites. People can either let the robot cook the selected recipe or let it instruct them how to cook it themselves. Moley states that consumers and professional chefs will be able to demonstrate, share and sell their own recipes on the digital library platform in the future, causing the library to be expanded continuously.
The robot kitchen can be activated through the touchscreen unit in the kitchen itself or by an app on a tablet or smartphone. This means that people can initiate their robot chef when they are returning home from a long day at work, ensuring that the healthy, freshly prepared meal of their choice will be awaiting them when they arrive. The kitchen is equipped with glass screens that close the kitchen space while the robot is cooking, ensuring safety when nobody is home or to prevent playing children to intervene while the robot is cooking. When not in use, the robot arms withdraw themselves from view. Moley robotics evidently takes safety very seriously. This is shown through their use of food processors as opposed to kitchen knives for chopping, since the company is convinced that humanity is not ready for robots who are capable of wielding knives.
Oleynik declared that not only people’s homes are a part of the target audience; the robot chefs would make life a lot easier and more efficient for hotels, hospitals, restaurants and property developers as well. Some hotels and hospitals have already expressed their interest in this innovative technology, because it would enable them to provide a great deal of dishes on demand. Even though the robot chef would benefit a lot of people, we cannot avoid the crucial issue if it would not be disadvantageous to actual chefs. What will happen to the thousands of people who make a living out of cooking if they are so easily replaceable by a machine with the same skills? The robot kitchen would be a one-off investment while a chef working full-time needs to be paid every month for 40 years.
The price of the first consumer version is estimated at $75,000 (approximately €70,000) but only 1,000 units will be sold during the first year. However, Oleynik wants the robotics kitchen to be affordable for everybody in the long run and aims for a strong price declination. Even though this seems quite an amount of money, one must keep in mind that buying this technology is like buying an intelligent, futuristic kitchen that does not only have a sleek modern design, but also takes over time-consuming tasks. Imagine never needing to have any more discussions about who will be doing the dishes!
Oleynik is convinced that robots will be seen more often in the domestic environment in 50 years. Over the past 20 years, technology has advanced at such a rapid pace, that we cannot predict what we will be capable of in 50 years, but I am sure that the robot kitchen is only the beginning of a new way of living. Robotics will definitely enhance our daily lives in the future and reduce the work load for people. Not only will this futuristic kitchen help people to eat better and healthier, it will also decrease the amount of stress with which people are inevitably confronted in their busy lives.