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.
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.”