Earlier this year, consumer electronics giant Sony announced a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University to research robots for “optimizing food preparation, cooking and delivery.” This week, we got a sense of how those robots might look via a new Sony promo video.
Titled “AI x Robotics x Cooking,” the video shows off two scenarios. The first is an older gentleman who is prepping for what seems to be a Thanksgiving get together with friends and family. In it, the robot assistant, which looks like a long, plain countertop, quietly springs into action as the man tells it that there are more guests coming to the party.
Robotic arms rise up and chop vegetables by imitating the human. Potatoes are stacked with precision and rather than dumping them into a pot, a clear container comes down over them on the counter and fills with water (evidently a high-tech seal keeps it from leaking out the bottom). There are blender and pouring and cake icing attachments, along with all sorts of sensors that automatically cook the food (though the robot in the video may be trying to murder the family as it says the internal temperature of the served turkey is 146.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Safe cooking temperature for turkey is 165). And if all that automation wasn’t enough, a robotic assistant even slides out from under the counter to serve drinks.
While the robot in this video is definitely still the stuff of science fiction, it highlights how Sony is thinking about robots in the home. Japan has an aging population and robots will play an increasingly important role in providing home care (hence the older man highlighted in the video). But Japan’s shrinking population also means that it is facing a labor shortage in places like restaurants.
And the commercial scenario is what the second half of the Sony video is all about. In it, a hip young couple goes out for a fancy evening out in what kinda looks like the piano lounge of the Death Star. The robot in this setting is round, with people sitting around it like at a bar. Facial recognition is used to bring up the diners’ preferences, and robo-bartender arms whip up a cocktail. This robot also cooks using hot knives to sear while slicing, and creates a delicate edible flower arrangement dessert that will match what you are wearing (just watch the video).
Another thing that struck me while watching this video is how similar the home cooking bot’s form factor is to that of the Moley robot, which is active development now. Both use long, narrow counters and robot arms sliding around on tracks to manipulate food and make meals. That probably makes sense given the limited space available in most kitchens to potentially install a full-fledged robot.
Of course, Sony’s robotic vision is bound to change as they do more research and uncover more use cases. But until then, this video gives us a little guidance as to what our robot future will bring.