Inside The Robotic Kitchen Of The Future That Serves Up Thousands Of Dishes
During the pandemic, we have been locked up tight at home, feeling a drag from the redundancy of trying to make meals day in and day out. If only there was a robot that could prepare our favorite meals piping hot with fresh ingredients to offer us endless variety.
Revealed this year at the 2021 digital Consumer Electronics Show, a revolutionary robotic kitchen can do just that.
Mark Oleynik is the founder and CEO of U.K.-based innovative robotics company Moley Robotics, the company that created the robot after six years of research and who gave me a tour of how it works.
“The robot is able to provide what people want—as many options available as possible and on demand,” Oleynik said. “It has always been about how to bring a customer out to food in a restaurant, but now the strategy is to bring freshly cooked food to the customer. The robot will allow a consumer to try a large variety of dishes in their own home.”
He pointed out that it is manufactured as two different pieces of furniture with all of the mechanics integrated. There are rails at the top of the kitchen module that allow the robot to move back and forth across the kitchen to perform an array of tasks.
Tasks are sent to the robot via a screen in the kitchen where users can scroll and find the recipe that they want out of thousands that the database will have in the coming months, even easily responding to a multitude of dietary restrictions. The screen also shows the user a timeline and all the operations that the robot does, so you can track its progress.
Built into the kitchen are a number of sensors and cameras to map the ingredients, cookware and utensils the robot will need to manipulate in the kitchen while preparing a dish.
If the user wants to cook herself, the robot can be stored away to use the kitchen in a normal way, but will also have access to the easy-to-follow instructions on the screen. However, the robot can even spot dropped food and clean up before and after cooking, a skill that most of us haven’t mastered yet. Plus, having the robot prepare a meal is a huge time saver to free up time for other important matters or just to relax.
“It is not just a labor-saving device, it is a platform for our creativity,” Oleynik said. “It can even teach us how to become better cooks.”
If there is something in the recipe that isn’t in the integrated refrigerator, the robot knows and can put an order in. Not only can the robot then cook the recipe using fresh ingredients, it can clean up the cooking area afterwards.
The robotic kitchen can be customized, but the model that I toured virtually was nearly 48 feet long by 8 feet tall. This precise model of the robotic kitchen boasted a long list of bells and whistles, and was consequently priced at approximately $340,000.
To be installed, the kitchen only needs the basics of water, electricity and an internet connection. It doesn’t need specific appliances and can operate an induction stove top and a steam oven. The robot can even control the temperature and amount of water from the electronic tap that is installed.
One exception to the kitchen are the larger, adaptive handles on the cookware and utensils that have visual markers for better recognition from the computer vision system and so that the robot has a stronger, more reliable grasp.
Anyone who wants to purchase the kitchen will be able to make some custom choices to match the style of the rest of their home, including a choice of premium marbles, onyx and Corian countertops along with different options for the kitchen cabinet finishes.
While installation may be very easy for a dedicated installation team, Moley Robotics offers 24-hour technical support from a remote team for day-to-day operations.
“The first machine is always complicated, advanced and expensive,” Oleynik said. “We’re working on a business plan that is a simpler version that is more affordable and will be released in the next year. We have started working with suppliers to scale up now, but it had to go through these phases in order to get to scale and get to a point to put in subsystems that will help optimize the programming.”
Oleynik and his team plan to make the robot much more functional.
“Right now the robot can do about 30 operations,” he said. “The plan is to teach the robot to do much more. It will do steaks, rice dishes, soups and also some fried dishes, baked and oven prepared, plus it can fry and steam in parallel. All of these iterations will increase the variety of the recipes. Plus, we are adding in more sensors, more AI in data processing to make these available in the platform.”
Moley Robotics also received a lot of interest from commercial kitchens, such as restaurants, senior housing facilities, and hotels. They continue to fine tune this version to be launched this year as well, which could be the perfect amenity for student housing or in coliving projects.