Perhaps the most awesome thing about the Moley robot chef is just how ‘human’ its actions are. On arriving at the company’s London office the robot’s arms were as inanimate as the kitchen utensils next to it. But with a mouse click on a nearby PC, the arms sprang into life, adding butter and chopped onion to a pan and gently stirring it as they began to soften.
Unlike robots found in factories that move with clinical precision, the Moley robot’s cooking movements are actually motion captured from a real human chef, in this case former UK Masterchef winner, Tim Anderson. This leads to some wonderful pausing moments when the hands hovered over the pan, as if Tim himself was looking at it to see how things were going.
This, believes founder and CEO Mark Oleynik, is one of the robot’s USPs, and in the future you’ll be able to do anything from ‘recording’ Grandma’s pasta sauce recipe, to downloading Heston Blumenthal’s cooking movements. Where as today you’re browsing iTunes or Netflix, tomorrow you’ll be scrolling through Moley’s recipes looking for dinner. Eventually the system will be accessible remotely, meaning a delicious meal can be ready and waiting for you when you arrive home: so long slow cooker crockpot.
After 20 minutes the freshly cooked soup was ladled into a bowl and presented by the robot for me to try. So how did it taste? Well, surprisingly good actually. The cream, tomatoes and stock ensured a rich flavour, while the vermouth and lemon juice provided some floral high notes. The crab added the required fishiness, and the tarragon sealed the deal with its sweet aniseed-like bite.
Of course at the moment this version is just a prototype, and it took the home economist nearly as long to weigh out and precisely place all the ingredients as it did for the robot to cook them. We’re a long way of from the robot being able to chop an onion or chiffonade parsley with spontaneous and human flair.
But maybe that doesn’t matter. In the future the pre-prepared ingredients might be sold in packaged trays that you just place in the right space, meaning the robot knows what’s in each dish and where it is. So instead of buying your premade chilli con carne to a recipe devised by Heston but made by a food manufacturer, you’ll buy all the raw ingredients and the robot, mimicing Heston’s exact cooking movements, will be able to cook it from scratch. Imagine a scenario where all you will have to do is rip off the plastic, place containers in the right space, and press ‘run’.
Morley are seeking crowdfunding to develop a mark II prototype, with the aim of having a consumer version ready for launch in 2017. Shopping, cooking and cleaning up could all done by robots. If that’s not futuristic, we don’t know what is.