Robots Are Coming for Our Chefs’ Jobs Next

It’s no big surprise that, throughout the next few decades, certain everyday tasks will allow for automated alternatives. Whether it’s a self-driving car that can replace a taxi driver, or a tabletop kiosk to replace your server, robots will soon be everywhere—and we’ll have fewer jobs than ever because of it.

It’s actually something that’s getting the attention of economists everywhere, and we’re beginning to see a push for something called basic income: one of the few solutions put forth so far for our impending (and heretofore unprecedented) unemployment crisis.

The thing is, there have always been certain jobs that either reason or hubris have convinced us were off-limits for our robot overlords. Artistic pursuits, for example, such as writing and graphic design. I think we’ve also counted the culinary arts among these, since it seems to take a measure of finesse and intuition that a machine can’t match.

But that may soon change—and some are saying it might be here as early as 2017.

What Can a Robot Cook, Cook?

The cooking robot, designed by Moley Robotics, can already cook up a tasty crab bisque, which it accomplishes by replicating the precise movements of a flesh-and-blood professional chef. Moley Robotics plans for the robot to launch in 2017, and by that time consumers will be able to select one of 2,000 dishes from an app on their phone for the robot to prepare. This means that, on the way home from work, you could simply tap a button on the app and the robotic cook will have dinner waiting for you when you walk in the door.

It’s the next logical step toward automating our entire lives.

The robot’s appearance is essentially a pair of robotic hands, designed and built from scratch, with the ability to stir food, pick up and put down utensils, and safely regulate the temperature of your oven or stove. The robotic hands were painstakingly designed and constructed using 20 motors, 129 sensors, and 24 joints to accurately replicate the movements of a professional human chef. The video below showcases Moley Robotics’ creation in action:

How the Movements Were Captured

Moley Robotics captured the movements by recording in 3D in a special studio. There, the human chef’s movements were converted to algorithms that the robot is capable of re-creating. While the robotic cook technology has been explored in the past, this creation is the first robot with a fully automated kitchen set-up. A previous technology, a robot called Cooki, used a robotic arm to assemble pre-portioned ingredients—a limitation that has now been overcome.

Technology like Cooki and Moley Robotics’ new creation coincides with research from many universities, like Cornell, that are teaching robots to understand voice-guided instructions, which provide more flexibility than a computer program. Researchers from Cornell have already taught a robot how to boil water in a pan, while noodle-slicing robots in China are similarly impressive. All these breakthroughs in the robot chef niche suggests that these robots may even eventually be a common sight in restaurants, though there will probably always be demand for dishes made with a human touch. That is, until it’s impossible to tell the difference.

A Digital Community for Robotic Chef Owners

The prospect of an app with thousands of recipes for chef robots to utilize opens up many possibilities for recipe sharers. Even better: with a robotic chef in tow, consumers can easily try out these recipes without much effort at all. While humans will obviously still have to stock the ingredients, it’s very exciting that—within just a few years—robots may be a mainstay in kitchens.

Such task-replacement robot interaction has been showcased for years in sci-fi films. Now, with technology by developers like Moley Robotics just a few years away from release, it’s clear that the robotics industry continues to grow at a remarkable pace. The founder of Moley Robotics, Mark Oleynik, is very excited about the technology’s future: “Whether you love food and want to explore different cuisines, or fancy saving a favorite family recipe for everyone to enjoy for years to come, the Automated Kitchen can do this,” he explains. “It is not just a labor saving device—it is a platform for our creativity. It can even teach us how to become better cooks.”

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