All posts by Daniel Davies

Robotic kitchen to give every home access to a personal chef

Hidden away in a small office in central London is the future of food preparation: a large pair of robot arms will now take care of cooking in the home, so you don’t have to.

Once development is completed, the robo-chef, designed by Moley Robotics, will give its owners access to a downloadable menu of thousands of dishes.

The robot works by rigidly copying the actions of a human who has previously made the same meal while being filmed by 3D motion capture technology and wearing cyber gloves. This information is then placed on the Moley app, where users will be able to select recipes based on ingredients, cuisine or dietary needs.

For the demonstration, this former Masterchef winner Tim Anderson was filmed, but there’s nothing to stop Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver or Tom Kerridge being imitated by the robot in future, which would give every kitchen access to a celebrity chef.

The prototype caused quite a furore when it was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics fair in Shanghai, so much so that potential customers had to be turned away, disappointed, while its designers prepare it for commercial release at the end of 2017.

The founder of Moley Robotics Mark Oleynik does eventually see the product being available to a mass market and would be happy to see the product in kitchens across the globe.

“We’re not making kitchens out of diamonds and covered in gold,” says Oleynik. “We are focused on making a mass-market product.”

For this to be the case the cost of the robot kitchen would have to fall dramatically. Currently the robot is expected to cost $75,000 at launch.

However, Oleynik does believe the cost will drop dramatically in a relatively short period of time.”A regular mid-level kitchen costs £20,000, for the whole kitchen, this level of cost is achievable in four to five years time,” he says.

But Oleynik isn’t convinced the price will drop much beyond that point. He says: “ We’re not competing with Ikea,” and cites the differences in mobile phone technology as a way of illustrating his point. “You can use a simple telephone for £50 but it has no functionality. We’re trying to strike a balance between price and functionality.”

Oleynik  explains that the robot is “not replacing people, it replaces boring operations”. The robo-kitchen’s creator sees it as a tool to combat the urge to eat ready meals, takeaways and a fast-food diet, all of which can have a detrimental effect on people’s health.

He doesn’t believe it will take over from the human chef. In fact, he argues that the device boosts competition as anyone will be able to upload their cooking to the platform.

Images courtesy of Moley Robotics

Images courtesy of Moley Robotics

If the robo-chef were to be seen in professional kitchens then the humanoid hands, which are such a feature of the machine’s design, may be excluded or at least sped up. Head of engineering David Walsh explains: “Right now it’s entertaining in a commercial kitchen, but they wouldn’t need that entertainment factor [in a professional kitchen].”

For the moment, though, the team aren’t concerned with developing for restaurants; they’re working on adding as much functionality as possible for the domestic market, so eventually the machine will be able to clean itself and chose between items which haven’t been laid out in a set pattern.

Once this functionality is included, and the price drops, we may see the robo-kitchen in homes round the world, but as Walsh says: “At the minute it cooks for me, but it’s easier to just get a sandwich.”

The chair that brings intuitive movement to virtual reality

Tech company VRGO have developed of a wireless, fully immersive chair to combat virtual reality’s issues with movement.

2016 will be the year of VR. With a range of affordable head-mounted displays such as the Oculus Rift and Playstation VR about to hit the market, we’re on the verge of being immersed in the virtual world.

But despite the great strides that have been made with this technology, the problem of how to incorporate movement still exists.

One company, however, is attempting to change that. VRGO has developed a seat that connects to available VR devices and games via Bluetooth. The seat uses motion-sensing technology and allows users to control their virtual character by leaning and swivelling.

“Physical movement in the real world is key to movement in the virtual. Without physical movement it doesn’t feel quite right, just as using a keyboard, mouse or joypad wouldn’t feel right to control our movement in the real world,” explains Joe Ryan, designer of the VRGO chair.

Although, virtual reality is set to become a $15bn industry by 2020, according to a report by market research agency Research and Markets, initially the technology will be aimed at the gaming community.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and investor in Oculus VR, has said: “The initial market that we’re going for is going to be a lot of people who love gaming. The 250 million people who own an Xbox, Playstation or Wii today will probably be the first people who will buy an Oculus and plug it into their computer.”

Images courtesy of VRGO

Images courtesy of VRGO

The VRGO chair is looking to capitalse on that market by offering gamers immersive play, and represents a compact, light and stylish alternative to the current cumbersome locomotion devices on the market.

By offering hands-free movement the VRGO is attempting to solve another problem associated with VR: motion sickness. The fact that VRGO combines physical movement with what the user sees on screen means that motion sickness will be reduced by allowing users to maintain the natural human inclination to lean towards the desired travel direction.

VRGO is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, where backers can currently pre-order a chair for £150.