The Next Master Chef May Be Mr. Roboto

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In the movie WALL-E, humans are tended to hand and foot by a huge staff of service robots, performing tasks that range from entertainment to cooking. While the movie takes place in the world of science fiction, we are taking great strides to making this technology a reality.

Enter Kitchen Robot. Made by Moley Robotics, the Moley Kitchen Robot is designed to cook over a thousand recipes with the skill and dexterity of a professional chef. The company promises to bring culinary masterpieces to the public, and to help ensure that gourmet cooking is available to more people; nevermind the initial price tag of $75,000 for the actual robot.

Moley Kitchen Robot might be unprecedented in its form, but automatic kitchens have been the dream of homeowners since the dawn of the microwave. The fact that robots and computers are capable of performing repetive tasks over and over again make them ideal for the kitchen. Zume Pizza is a California-based pizza delivery service that uses robots and computers to help make pizza. Together with human chefs, the pizza place can prepare roughly 220 pizzas an hour. Robots are used for tasks that people struggle with, like pouring pizza sauce evenly and moving pizzas from ovens.

Students at MIT are also working on independent kitchen automation. Engineering students from the school have built a fully automated “mini-restaurant”. The Spyce Kitchen has a menu of four different meals and can cook up to two meals at once. Ingredients are sent to a conveyer belt where they are thrown into automated vats, which stir up the food into a delicious meal and serve it into a waiting bowl.

Even wait staff may be automated in the near future. Singapore, for example, is using robots to meet the demand for labor that the country’s strict immigration policy creates. Robots are being used as busboys, and in lieu of a human waiters, robots can also take orders from customers. Most of these robots cannot perform advanced mechanical functions, but are nonetheless a popular attraction for restaurant goers, and can still perform basic functions.

What sets Moley Kitchen Robot apart is that it is going to be both fully autonomous and humanlike in its ability. The robot is actually the entire kitchen itself, set up with refrigerator space, a dishwashing station, oven and stovetop. The real game changer is the two robotic arms. Built right into the station, two human-like appendages hang down from above, and are used to manipulate the environment.

The robot hands are designed to mimic the movements of a real chef. Using motion capture technology, Moley recorded the movements of MasterChef winner Tim Anderson. The data was used to teach the Kitchen Robot how to prepare food. The kitchen is designed to work with a built-in touchscreen, as well as a smartphone app in order to choose dishes to prepare. Moley hopes to create a library of over 2,000 different recipes to choose from.

Moley hopes to bring the kitchen to the market in 2018. While this seems like a long way off, it’s still a short time considering we were waiting for this tech since The Jetsons was on tv.