Domestic robots have long been the sole domain of futurists and sci-fi enthusiasts. People have dreamed of having robot butlers for as long as robots have existed.
But with ever increasing AI technologies and growing precision in robotics, we are closer than ever to having robots helping us out around the kitchen – and the rest of the home, too!
In fact, if you can afford the price tag, you could have a robot prepared meal right now.
Moley: The Robot Master Chef
Moley is the world's first robotic kitchen and it represents a gear change in smart home tech.
Boasting an “iTunes-style” recipe library, Moley is essentially a pair of robotic arms fully integrated into a modern kitchen.
It has been in development since 2013 and is slated for consumer release later this year after launching in 2018.
Moley's arms boast a wide range of culinary skills. In fact, it learned its food prep techniques from Masterchef winner Tim Anderson, meaning that its fully articulated hands are able to faithfully reproduce the precise movements of one of the world's best chefs.
This isn't future tech – it's now tech. With housing developers apparently getting on board with Moley, there's a chance that many of our kitchens will soon boast their very own metal master chef.
Moving Forward With Kitchen Robots
For many, a pair of robotic arms on rails isn't what they picture when they think of robots serving humans in the kitchen.
For kitchen robots to move forward, they have to be able to move about like us – and around us.
Nvidia are among the many companies developing such technology, and they are taking a different approach. Rather than designing a purpose-built kitchen for their robots, they are using an IKEA kitchen.
The idea is that in order for robots to be of more general use, they need to be able to navigate around obstacles and locate items in rooms that aren't specifically designed for them. This lowers the cost barrier as it doesn't require the replacement of an existing kitchen.
But why train robots in the kitchen?
The kitchen, according to Dieter Fox who is running the Nvidia lab, is the perfect place to test these robots. Fetching things from cupboards, preparing food and working alongside human chefs are all tasks that are applicable outside of the kitchen.
For this reason, it seems likely that the kitchen will be the first room that benefits from these emerging technologies.
Getting A Robot Butler?
Unfortunately, we're still a little way off a proper, general use robot that can help with any task in the kitchen.
As we see in the industrial sector, robots are still most useful when given a strict set of instructions and a limited scope.
But as AI improves and products like Moley's robotic kitchen and Nvidia's kitchen robots get more advanced, we might find that our days of slaving over a hot stove are coming to a close – sooner, rather than later.