This robotic chef is your private kitchen assistant

“Steaming, which is a very simple operation, differs whether you do it with, say, a piece of fish, a large piece of potato, a small piece of potato, and rice,” said Mark Oleynik. “All of this is very different, believe me. You need different timing, different tools to get it right. You need a robot that can reliably cook these various recipes – and more. “

When you hear about the challenges of vaping fish, your first thought may not be “a robot can do this”. On the other hand, you are not the founder and CEO of Moley Robotics, a company that has built such a culinary robot in the past few years. At this year’s virtual CES, the company held live demos of the Moley Kitchen robot while putting together a variety of recipes for the streaming audience.

At over $ 335,000, Moley isn’t cheap. A robot cook, which costs the same as a single-family home in many places, can be seen as a little excessive. But Oleynik, a Russian mathematician and computer scientist, has figured out the numbers and believes that one day the robot could be made for significantly less. And for now, are there better bragging rights for wealthy shoppers than having Johnny 5 (or some other fictional robo-reference) as their personal chef?

“[Our robots] Recreate the whole process of cooking a meal the way a chef would prepare a meal, ”Oleynik told Digital Trends. “The same ingredients, the same equipment, the same cookware, the same timing, the same temperatures, the same parameters. This has to be done in a very, very reliable way because if you have a sequence of 25 operations and only one of them fails, the entire court will also fail. “

This is what Oleynik said sets Moley apart from the myriad of robotic demonstrations where robotic arms prepare food. Robotic arms are usually great for any task that you have to repeat over and over again. This could be anything from helping with assembly on a factory line, to putting a product in a pan, waiting a minute, and turning it over or removing it.

However, the versatility it takes for a robotic arm to carry out every step of a recipe is something entirely different. It is taken over from a mono operating machine, which is designed to perform predefined tasks for a cook.

Choose your recipe, sit back and wait

The Moley Kitchen robot isn’t just named Moley Kitchen to make it clear which part of your house it goes into. The idea is that it is a stand-alone kitchen – or at least a futuristic representation of a kitchen that might have existed once in an episode of The Jetsons. The main bits are the two robot hands and arms, each of which can “replicate the movements of a human hand” with impressive dexterity.

But it also consists of built-in cabinets, a cooling unit, a motion capture system, a full set of optimized kitchen appliances, and an attached graphical user interface that doesn’t make choosing your meal too complex than pulling up an Amazon item to buy on your iPad.

The user first selects the meal that he would like to eat from a growing database with currently around 100 dishes. This can be searched and filtered in all the ways you would expect, be it by ingredients, country of origin (“I want an Italian recipe, I want a French recipe, a Vietnamese recipe, a Japanese recipe,” said Oleynik), calories, Allergens or a different number of options. The display then shows the information about the ingredients you need, which can be sent directly to your phone or ordered online.

Once you have the ingredients, set the right amounts, followed by video demonstrations like a food and drink peloton session. You then decide when to eat the dish, click “Schedule”, and leave Moley to continue with his work.

“You don’t do anything after that because the robot does it [do it all,]Said Oleynik. “The cookware is removed from the fully automated cookware storage. He’ll put it on the induction stove and turn it on. He will automatically add the water to the cookware. He’s going to take ingredients out of the fridge. He’ll add the ingredients. It will save, it will mix, it will mix, it will puree. When it is needed, he puts the cookware in the oven and operates it. By the end of the recipe you have to go zero. “

According to Oleynik, a Moley kitchen robot that has now been ordered will be delivered and installed in mid-2021.

Enter the iWondercook

As it turns out, Moley Robotics isn’t the only foodie robotics company showing off its products at CES. Another startup, iWondercook, used this year’s CES to showcase its robotic cooking product.

“We’re doing a virtual show, but unfortunately it’s very difficult to do a virtual tasting,” Michael Lemberg, inventor of iWondercook, told Digital Trends. “Technological advances will be required before we can get food from my computer to your computer.”

Lvemberg’s vision for iWondercook is, in some ways, more humble than Moley’s. In the broadest sense, iWondercook promises to do the same as Moley. But breakfast at a Michelin-starred restaurant and breakfast at your local restaurant do the same thing, at least in some ways. This isn’t a robotic chef who looks like he’s straight out of a science fiction movie. It’s more of a device – think Instant Pot with added robo technology. While Moley comes with a six-digit price tag, iWondercook is aiming for one that’s more like buying a new refrigerator. (Think anywhere between $ 500 and $ 1,000.)

To do this, you get a tabletop machine that checks the ingredients’ expiration date, adds the ingredients one by one, adjusts cooking temperatures and times accordingly, adds sauces and spices, performs various actions like stirring, and then notifies you when the meal is ready for you You to plug in. Again, no user involvement is required, said Lviv.

Healthier than take away

What separates the two from each other and explains the price difference is the way in which they carry out this respective food preparation. With iWondercook, the user buys special recipe boxes, similar to those from Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, which have been made machine-readable and preparable.

From both a robotics and AI point of view, this greatly limits the problem: no comparable image processing is required, mastery of dozens of techniques, and the ability to cook anything the user desires. Instead, nutritious meals (which Lviv calls “food cartridges”) are to be provided that can function within the limits of the robot’s capabilities. It’s Food Prep Reverse Engineered.

“Everything [is] Delivery to the consumer in a single package, ”said Lviv. “[The user] Just slide it in, push a button and the machine will take care of the rest. We came up with that. We have specially developed digital recipes that our robot cook can carry out step by step. “

So what is the difference between buying a ready-made meal, for example, and putting it in the oven for most of an hour? This also brings the user a plate of warm dishes with minimal effort. The answer, Lviv said, depends on diet.

“[All the ready-made meals] You buy pre-cooked in the supermarket, ”he said. “If you put it in an oven for 45 minutes, you don’t boil it. They are heating something that has previously been boiled and then most likely frozen. Every time you do this, freeze something and then reheat it, you lose a fifth of the nutritional value. The meals sold in the supermarkets are likely to get you 25 percent of the nutritional value compared to a meal you would cook from scratch yourself. “

With iWondercook, he said, meals are different. “In our case, the food is only cooked once – right before you eat it. It’s freshly made from fresh ingredients. Because of this, you retain all of the nutritional value of the raw materials. “

According to Lviv, iWondercook will hopefully be on the market by the end of 2021. Compatible meals are said to retail for $ 8 to $ 12 to align with other recipe box delivery services.

A market ripe for disruption

The culinary world is changing a lot thanks to technology. There are vertical farms that can produce leafy vegetables all year round with the help of robot farmers and LEDs. There are companies that make laboratory-grown meat and dairy products that provide the exact same food without actually growing and slaughtering cattle. Then there are delivery robot companies like Starship Technologies, automated burger preparation courtesy of Miso Robotics, and apps that let you order just about any meal you can imagine from your smartphone.

But so far, not much has changed in the physical preparation of a meal in your own home. Moley Robotics and iWondercook are two startups in this space that are hoping to capture even a small portion of a market that is ripe for disruption. Entrepreneurs are constantly looking for areas where things are consuming valuable time or contain an element that for most of us can be considered an element of drudgery. After all, this is a big part of the reason why many of us eat out at restaurants or order takeaway.

“[I agree that] People like to cook for themselves occasionally, but not everyone wants to cook for themselves and their families three times a day, seven days a week, ”said Lviv. “We’re not saying to stop cooking. That’s not our goal. If someone likes to cook, great. But if that person likes to cook once a week but still has to eat [an evening meal] Seven times a week we still have six days to order our meals. “

Soon in a kitchen near you

This is a prime property for the right company. Chances are, of course, that the company isn’t Moley or iWondercook. CES acts as runway mode for new technologies. Some of this is just plain weird and will never go further than the equivalent of eyebrow-raising fashion blogs. But sometimes there is an early glimpse into the revolutionary technology that will ultimately make up the inconspicuous fabric of our daily lives.

Thanks to the latest technology, we can now work from home without physically visiting an office. Self-driving cars mean that we can soon focus on other things during the time we need to travel somewhere. With any number of apps and tech companies, we can perform tasks – from searching the world’s information banks to ordering our purchases – with minimal effort.

Soon a company will rise to the challenge of preparing fresh, nutritious meals for us at home without having to worry about a stove. Both Oleynik and Lviv agree that it won’t be long before a version of this technology is found in large numbers of households around the world. If the small selection of startups in this article and at this year’s CES has something to offer, this will be a hotly contested area.

And we, as people who are given fresh, high quality meals, should enjoy all of the delicious benefits.

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