Robot chef that can cook any of 2,000 meals at tap of a button to go on sale in 2017

Stirring, adjusting the temperature, pouring and adding ingredients are all basic skills for a chef but they’re slightly harder to achieve for a robot.

However, that’s not the case for this pair of robotic hands, which could be set to revolutionise cooking and kitchen operations.

At present it’s able to knock up a crab bisque, which it creates by replicating the exact movements of a professional chef.

Creator Moley Robotics says that when the commercial version launches in 2017 users will be able to select one of 2,000 dishes from their phone and the robotic hands in the automated kitchen will make it.

If the robot is successful, it could mean we can simply tap a button on our phone to have a meal prepared in time for us coming home from work.

Everything in the automated kitchen has been designed and built from scratch. This allows the hands to be able to pick up and put down utensils, stir food a pan, and then safely turn a hob to the correct temperature.

The robotic hands, which are notoriously difficult to create, use 20 motors, 24 joints and 129 sensors to create the same range of movements that a human hand can make.

The cooking process was recorded in 3D in a special studio where each motion was captured.

The movements of the chef were then transferred into algorithms which could be re-created by the robot.

It isn’t the first robot which has been developed to work in a kitchen but the makers claim it is the first fully automated kitchen set-up to exist.

Other robots that are able to handle the heat of the kitchen include the Cooki, which uses a robotic arm to make meals from pre-portioned ingredients.

Researchers from Cornell University are teaching robots to understand instructions that are given to them by voice rather than a computer programme. So far they have been able to teach one robot how to boil water in a pan.

Meanwhile, in China, Chef Cui has been helping to slice noodles.

robocookhands2

Ultimately the creators aim to build an app store for food, which will allow those who purchase the system to download recipes and instructions for the robot.

Mark Oleynik, who founded Moley Robotics, said that it is his aim to use robotics and other technologies that can help to make our lives easier.

“Whether you love food and want to explore different cuisines, or fancy saving a favourite family recipe for everyone to enjoy for years to come, the Automated Kitchen can do this,” said Oleynik.

“It is not just a labour saving device – it is a platform for our creativity. It can even teach us how to become better cooks.”


Images courtesy of Moley Robotics


Solar Impulse plane arrives in Pennsylvania after brush with disaster

Solar Impulse 2, the solar plane currently circumnavigating the globe, has landed in Lehigh Valley International Airport in Pennsylvania, the US, after an incident at Dayton International Airport nearly put the project in serious jeopardy.

Bertand Piccard, Solar Impulse initiator and chairman, successfully piloted the plane from Dayton to Pennsylvania, departing at 4:02am local time yesterday, and landing 16 hours and 47 minutes later at 8:49pm.

However, before the plane was due to depart, an incident with the plane’s inflatable mobile hangar almost spelt disaster.

“What I was afraid of happened yesterday,” explained André Borschberg, Solar Impulse CEO, co-founder and alternate pilot, in a video recorded on 25th May shortly before the plane’s departure from Dayton. “To have a small accident which could jeopardise what we are doing. Suddenly the mobile hangar started to deflate and touch the aeroplane.”

Bertrand Piccard takes the now traditional in-flight selfie while flying from Dayton, Ohio, to Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Images courtesy of Solar Impulse

Bertrand Piccard takes the now traditional in-flight selfie while flying from Dayton, Ohio, to Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Images courtesy of Solar Impulse

This may not sound like a significant problem, but it could have caused major structural damage that would have taken months to repair and put the rest of the trip on hold indefinitely. This is because the plane is made of ultra lightweight carbon fibre, which is very strong when airborne, but fragile when on the ground.

“This aeroplane likes to fly; it doesn’t like to sit on the ground. And if you apply a little weight on the wing, you can be overloaded,” said Borschberg.

“I tell you, it was incredible,” he added. “But thanks to the reaction of the ground team, and thanks to the reaction of one guy Neils, he was the head of the ground team, he took the decision to reboot the system, and the mobile hangar started to reinflate again. But the major question at this moment was ‘did we damage the aircraft?’“

The departure from Dayton was delayed for a day while Solar Impulse engineers investigated the plane for damage, however the all-clear was given and the journey proceeded as planned.

Now the plane has arrived in Pennsylvania, it has almost completed its crossing of the USA, with its final stop, New York, only around 100 miles away.

The plan is to land at JFK International Airport, before embarking on the epic Atlantic crossing that will take the plane to Europe, and bring the plane a major step closer to completing its fuel-free round-the-world journey. However, the Solar Impulse team is still determining the best approach to this.

“There are different scenarios around how we’re going to fly the flight to New York, and when we’re going to approach the Statue of Liberty” said Michael Anger, Solar Impulse lead mission engineer and flight director.

“There’s one scenario where we arrive there early in the morning with the sunrise, and therefore we would need to take off very early in the morning, maybe 2 o’clock at night. And the other scenario is we fly into the night with maybe one hour before sunset and then fly into the night and then land very late in JFK.”

Scientists have just solved one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in galaxy evolution

Scientists believe that the intense interstellar winds created by low-energy supermassive black holes are responsible for turning galaxies into “featureless deserts”.

Galaxies begin their existence full of gas and dust, and actively form bright new stars, but as they evolve they become devoid of fresh stars and generally remain that way for the rest of their evolution.

Research by the Universities of Tokyo and Oxford have discovered this may be caused by galaxies hosting low-energy supermassive black holes.

Scientists have dubbed these galaxies, red geysers.

The winds found in red geysers suppress star formation by heating up the ambient gas found in galaxies and preventing it from cooling and condensing into stars.

Image and featured image courtesy of Kavli/IPMU

Image and featured image courtesy of Kavli/IPMU

“Stars form from the gas, but in many galaxies stars were found not to form despite an abundance of gas. It was like having deserts in densely clouded regions,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Edmond Cheung.

“We knew quiescent galaxies needed some way to suppress star formation, and now we think the red geysers phenomenon may represent how typical quiescent galaxies maintain their quiescence.”

Using a near-dormant distant galaxy named Akira as a prototypical example, the researchers were able to describe how the wind’s driving mechanism is likely to originate in Akira’s galactic nucleus.

The energy input from this nucleus, powered by a supermassive black hole, is capable of producing the wind, which itself contains enough mechanical energy to heat ambient, cooler gas in the galaxy and thus suppress star formation.

“We could not understand what was preventing this cooling from happening in many galaxies,’ said co-author Dr Michele Cappellari.

“But when we modelled the motion of the gas in the red geysers, we found that the gas was being pushed away from the galaxy centre, and escaping the galaxy gravitational pull.”

Image courtesy of SDSS/David Kirkby

Image courtesy of SDSS/David Kirkby

Scientists were able to make their discovery by observing how stars and gas move inside galaxies using the Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA) survey of galaxies.

“The discovery was made possible by the amazing power of the ongoing MaNGA galaxy survey,” said overall leader of the study, Dr Kevin Bundy.

“The survey allows us to observe galaxies in three dimensions, by mapping not only how they appear on the sky, but also how their stars and gas move inside them.”

Driverless cars are learning how to go faster in dangerous conditions

A Georgia Institute of Technology research team has discovered a way to make self-driving cars safe when they’re driven in hazardous road conditions or at high speeds.

Up until now we’ve seen driverless cars performing comfortably on roads in good condition, but by using advanced algorithms and onboard computing, together with installed sensor devices, the Georgia Tech team was able to maintain control of a driverless vehicle when roadway adhesion was limited.

So a driverless car would be able to perform in icy or, as the researchers tested, rally-style conditions.

“An autonomous vehicle should be able to handle any condition, not just drive on the highway under normal conditions,” said School of Aerospace Engineering professor and expert on the mathematics behind rally-car racing control, Panagiotis Tsiotras.

“One of our principal goals is to infuse some of the expert techniques of human drivers into the brains of these autonomous vehicles.”

The Georgia Tech researchers used a method called model predictive path integral control (MPPI) to keep their cars at the edge of their limits.

To create their MPPI control algorithm the team combined large amounts of car handling information with data on the dynamics of the vehicle, to calculate the most stable trajectories from the numerous possibilities.

“Aggressive driving in a robotic vehicle – manoeuvring at the edge – is a unique control problem involving a highly complex system,” said School of Aerospace Engineering assistant professor and project leader, Evangelos Theodorou.

“However, by merging statistical physics with control theory, and utilising leading-edge computation, we can create a new perspective, a new framework, for control of autonomous systems.”

Images courtesy of Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

Images courtesy of Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

The MPPI control algorithm was tested by racing, sliding and jumping one-fifth scale, fully autonomous auto-rally cars at the equivalent of 90 mph.

The cars carried a motherboard with a quad-core processor, a potent GPU and a battery. Each vehicle was also fitted with two forward-facing cameras, an inertial measurement unit and sophisticated wheel-speed sensors.

In order to maintain balance in the hazardous testing conditions the cars had to balance a desire to stay on the track with achieving the desired velocity.

The researchers refer to these two separate desires, which they managed to coordinate, as costs.

“What we’re talking about here is using the MPPI algorithm to achieve relative entropy minimisation, and adjusting costs in the most effective way is a big part of that,” said James Rehg, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing.

“To achieve the optimal combination of control and performance in an autonomous vehicle is definitely a non-trivial problem.”