A Russian robotics company has built an automatic kitchen capable of cooking 2,000 different meals — and it could be in homes by 2017.
Moley Robotics' kitchen will cost about $15,000 and includes most of the appliances in a regular kitchen, like a refrigerator, dishwasher and oven. But the centerpiece is a robotic chef: two incredibly advanced arms mounted on rails above the cooking surface.
Like video game companies do for big-budget games, Moley brought in a professional — Tim Anderson, a restaurant chef and winner of the 2011 BBC Master Chef competition — to create and cook the dishes in a motion-capture studio so they could be translated to the robot's memory.
Essentially, Moley's robot is a professional-grade chef, but without the screaming, mercurial attitude.
"It is not just a labor-saving device — it is a platform for our creativity," Moley founder Mark Oleynik told Factor. "It can even teach us how to become better cooks."
How it works: The robot chef's hands come from the (worrisomely named) Shadow Robot Company and use 20 motors, 24 joints and 129 sensors to mimic the movements of human hands — a difficult task even for NASA, which has dedicated extensive resources to put functional hands on its automated astronauts.
According to the Moley website, later editions will have built-in motion capture cameras so cooks can 3-D record themselves preparing meals and upload them to the digital recipe library. Then, the robot can cook personal favorite foods or even traditional family meals (provided your bubbie is willing to put on the gloves).
There is no super-speed mode or Star Trek warp drive, so the robot can only cook as fast as the model chef cooked in the first place. But since it's linked up with mobile phones, someone driving home from work could tell the robot to whip up a lobster bisque during their commute.
The future of robo-hands: The hands' absurdly dextrous functionality is bound to be a gateway to other uses. They could probably be programmed to fix a car or perform solo surgeries with hands that remain placidly still under intense conditions.
The price point even opens the door to cheaper technology. As is, $15,000 is what you might spend on a kitchen renovation — one without its own Dr. Claw-like chef arms. What kind of power and dexterity could you get with $100,000 of robotics? Like a lot of ground-breaking technologies, the initial application isn't the ceiling — and Shadow's hands could be just the beginning of robots with the deft mobility of human appendages.
One caveat: While a moving glass screen makes it harder for children to get their hands cut off, there's no saying what happens if a house pet's favorite hangout happens to be the robot chef's workspace. If there's ever been a reason to teach a cat not to hop on the countertop, this is it.