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Diners’ Delight

chiefcook small

Four years ago, Fanxing Science and Technology of China created AIC-AI, “the world’s first cooking robot,” which can rustle up thousands of disparate Chinese dishes. Since AIC-AI burst onto the culinary scene, the New York Times reports, roboticists around the world have devised “a veritable army of new robots designed to serve and cook food.” Japan’s Motoman SDA10 has spatula arms that can handle savory pancakes. The Famen restaurant in Nagoya, Japan, serves ramen, a soup, prepared by two giant robot arms. The Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, came out with the Chief Cook Robot, which can make omelettes — provided someone first cracks the eggs.

Despite these impressive displays of kitchen prowess, it’s not likely that we will soon – if ever – see many robotic eateries. For one thing, the machines are very expensive. Then why use them? It’s a cool way to show off what robots are capable of – and watching pancakes flipping is more entertaining than a show of cars frames being welded. The owner of the Famen restaurant, who also owns the robotics company Aisei, opened the ramen bar as a clever promotional gimmick. Moreover, linking robots to dining is a good way to curb the unease many people have with the machines. “We figured, what better way to get people to interact with a robot than have something that offers them food?” Paul Rybski, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, told the Times. His team created Snackbot, which as the name indicates, is a robot designed to serve light meals.

Photo by Basilio Noris

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