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


Elon Musk isn't so keen on flying cars

"Obviously, I like flying things, but it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek. “If somebody doesn’t maintain their flying car, it could drop a hubcap and guillotine you.”

Source: Bloomberg

Is the woolly mammoth about to come back from extinction?

Scientists from Harvard University say they are just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant. The embryo would essentially grow to be an elephant with a number of mammoth traits.

Source: The Guardian

Congress is repeatedly warned NASA’s exploration plans aren’t sustainable

An expert panel has wanred that while NASA might have some of the right tools to launch and fly to destinations in deep space, it doesn't have the resources to land on the Moon, to build a base there or to fly humans to the surface of Mars.

Source: Ars Technica

IMAX unveils first virtual reality center

The IMAX VR center, which opened this week, houses 14 different pods, each containing different VR experiences that allow users to temporarily escape real life. One of the pods takes users to the desert planet of Tatooine, which will be familiar to Star Wars fans.

Source: Variety

Could Alexa be forced to testify in an Arkansas murder trial?

A trial is about to begin over the mysterious death of a former police officer at a home in Bentonville, Arkansas. The case is significant because it could help decide whether prosecutors should be allowed to subpoena a virtual assistant.

Source: VICE

Dwarf planet Ceres emerges as a place to look for life in the solar system

Pockets of carbon-based organic compounds have been found on the surface of Ceres. The identity of the tar-like minerals have't been precisely identified, but their mineral fingerprints match the make-up of kerite or asphaltite.

Source: New Scientist

Beyond biomimicry: Scientists find better-than-nature run style for six-legged robots

Researchers have found a running style for six-legged robots that significantly improves on the traditional nature-inspired method of movement.

The research, conducted by scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL) in Switzerland, found that as long as the robots are not equipped with insect-like adhesive pads, it is faster for them to move with only two legs on the ground at any given time.

Robotics has in the past few years made heavy use of biomimicry – the practice of mimicking natural systems – resulting in six-legged robots being designed to move like insects. In nature, insects use what is known as a tripod gait, where they have three legs on the ground at a time, so it had been assumed that this was the most efficient way for similarly legged robots to move.

However, by undertaking a series of computer simulations, tests on robots and experiments on Drosophila melanogaster – better known as the common fruit fly – the scientists found that the two-legged approach, which they have dubbed the bipod gait, results in faster and more efficient movement.

The core goal of the research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, was to confirm whether the long-held assumption that a tripod gait was best was indeed correct.

“We wanted to determine why insects use a tripod gait and identify whether it is, indeed, the fastest way for six-legged animals and robots to walk,” said Pavan Ramdya, study co-lead and corresponding author.

Initially, this involved the use of a simulated insect model based on the common fruit fly and an algorithm designed to mimic different evolutionary stages. This algorithm simulated different potential gaits to create a shortlist of those that it deemed to be the fastest.

This, however, shed light on why insects have a tripod gait – and why it may not be the best option for robots. The simulations showed that the traditional tripod gait works in combination with the adhesive pad found on the ends of insects’ legs to make climbing over vertical surfaces such as rocks easier and quicker.

Robots, however, are typically designed to walk along flat surfaces, and so the benefits of such a gait are lost.

“Our findings support the idea that insects use a tripod gait to most effectively walk on surfaces in three dimensions, and because their legs have adhesive properties. This confirms a long-standing biological hypothesis,” said Ramdya. “Ground robots should therefore break free from only using the tripod gait”.

Study co-lead authors Robin Thandiackal (left) and Pavan Ramdya with the six-legged robot used in the research. Images courtesy of EPFL/Alain Herzog

To for always corroborate the simulation’s findings, the researchers built a six-legged robot that could move either with a bipod or tripod gait, and which quickly confirmed the research by being faster when moving with just two legs on the ground at once.

However, they went further by confirming that the adhesive pads were in fact playing a role in the insect’s tripod movement.

They did this by equipping the fruit flies with tiny polymer boots that would cover the adhesive pads, and so remove their role in the way the insects moved. The flies’ responses confirms their theory: they began moving with a bipod-like gate rather than their conventional tripod-style movement.

“This result shows that, unlike most robots, animals can adapt to find new ways of walking under new circumstances,” said study co-lead author Robin Thandiackal.

As bizarre as the research sounds, it provides valuable new insights both for roboticists and biologists, and could lead to a new standard in the way that six legged robots are designed to move.

“There is a natural dialogue between robotics and biology: Many robot designers are inspired by nature and biologists can use robots to better understand the behavior of animal species,” added Thandiackal. “We believe that our work represents an important contribution to the study of animal and robotic locomotion.”