Sony Corporation announced yesterday that it has hooked up with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to collaborate on artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics research that will initially focus on “optimizing food preparation, cooking and delivery.”
In a press release, Sony said they were starting off with food-related robots because the complexities involved with food could later be applied to a wider range of industries. Specifically, it cited the ability to work with fragile and odd-shaped materials, as well as the ability to operate a robot in small spaces.
The research will happen mostly at CMU’s School of Computer Science in Pittsburgh. Partnering with a big tech company isn’t new for CMU; the school has previously worked with Uber on self-driving car technology.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the complexities involved with its preparation, food robotics is a hot area right now. Miso Robotics has Flippy, a robot which uses a series of cameras, thermal imaging and AI to properly cook a hamburger. Cafe X launched its second generation robot barista-in-a-box. Meanwhile, 6d bytes and Alberts have both launched smoothie-making robots.
More difficult than actually building useful robots may be tackling the issues surrounding human/robot interaction. Flippy was “retired” after just one day because human workers just couldn’t keep up with the fast robot. Cafe X and 6d bytes’ bots are self-contained units that have pretty much taken humans out of the equation altogether.
The delivery aspect of this partnership is also intriguing. Companies like Marble and Starship have started rolling out pilot projects for robot food delivery in cities across the country. Leveraging CMU’s experience with autonomous driving could rapidly advance the viability of small, grocery-carrying robots scurrying around city sidewalks.
We’ll keep tabs on this project to see what comes of it. Who knows, maybe Sony can develop a delivery robot that’s as cute as its Aibo robot dog.