Cooking Robots: Can We Automate Cooking?

Robo-mixers and grocery tracking refrigerators are not all that we can use to revamp our kitchen courtesy of the rapid technological advancements.

Cooking meals is something that every household has to cope with, for some, it is therapeutic, for others it is a never-ending chore.

Whichever group you belong to, you might have wondered, at least once in your life, whether there ever will be robots who will cook for you.

Thanks to the technological advancements, and the eagerness of a UK-based engineer to come up with something unique and technologically advanced, there actually is a robot that can cook restaurant-quality meals for you at home.

The robot dubbed Moley Kitchen can cook everything for you from Christmas feasts to a simple breakfast with scrambled eggs and black coffee.

It’s mind-boggling how technologically advanced we are in 2022 when only two decades ago more than half the people in the world didn’t even know what smartphones were. 

This is why the technology that went into creating the Moley Kitchen is so intriguing.

How was the technology developed? What gave its creator the idea of coming up with a robotic chef? How can it actually mimic the movements of a real chef?

All these questions have been answered in this article.

If you are wondering whether there are robots for cooking, the answer is yes. The Moley Kitchen can cook up to 5000 different meals for you and costs up to $340,000 depending on customizations.

The Moley Kitchen – The Robot That Can Cook

The Moley Kitchen is a pair of arms that are attached to an overhead station over the cooking range. 

These arms can glide, slide and extend in all directions providing a tangible system that mimics the actions of a professional chef. 

The robot has been under development since 2014 and its technology has been perfected over time. 

It is now programmed to cook more than 5000 scrumptious dishes, the recipes for which are curated by professional chefs around the world.

You can also record your own recipes and train Moley to cook them according to the way you like them. 

At this point, it is important to note that only five years ago Moley Kitchen could only cook one dish and that was Crab Bisque. 

However, it is still a work in progress. Where Moley Kitchen has perfected the art of cracking the egg, it still has a hard time peeling vegetables.

How can a Robot Cook?

Machines and computers work by following a set of instructions provided to them by the programmer. 

The cooking robot mentioned is not different. Although it is way more advanced than any piece of technology we commonly use at home, it still uses the same basic principle. 

A cooking process is also a series of steps that one has to follow. If these instructions are fed to a compatible machine as a sequence of functional operations, you will be surprised at what it can do. 

The Moley Kitchen has arms that are designed to recreate the movements of a chef. 

Although robots have been employed in many industries, their movement is pretty much standardized. 

The arms move back and forth on a rail and make awkward movements to get done with tasks which is why using them for cooking was not exactly feasible. 

However, Molley’s ability to follow instructions and make human-like movements has made using robots for cooking possible. 

What Technology Went into the Moley Kitchen?

Moley Kitchen is a state-of-the-art robot that uses a combination of several different technologies to become the kitchen robot that all of us have been secretly yearning for. 

She has been equipped with sensors and optical cameras to analyze, weigh and identify the ingredients, cookware, and other utensils. 

However, Molley cannot work with all types of utensils. The utensils she uses have subtle markers on the lids and the handles of the pan. 

These markers help her orientate herself in the kitchen. 

Moley Kitchen is a very sophisticated combination of carefully curated programs and imaging sensors. 

Thanks to advanced tech, the robot can even spot and clean dropped food. 

Moreover, she is also equipped with UV lamps to disinfect the cooking area after the food is cooked. 

How Does the Moley Kitchen Work?

Making use of the state-of-the-art technology installed, Molley starts by analyzing the ingredients and utensils in the kitchen. 

Based on the instructions provided and the recipe selected, she preps for the meal. All this while, the imaging and other sensors installed are being used to weigh, analyze and cut the required ingredients. 

Once the preparation is complete, using the subtle markers on the pots and pans, Molley chooses the right utensils and starts cooking. 

Cooking steps for more than 5000 dishes have already been incorporated into Molley’s server.

However, you can also add recipes of your own. All you have to do is add the instructions in English, the rest will be taken care of by the robot itself. 

Moley can be controlled and navigated using a large touchscreen. Using the interface, you can also add your food preferences and dietary requirements.

The robot has been designed in collaboration with Tim Anderson, a culinary innovator, and winner of the 2011 series of BBC MasterChef. 

His techniques were copied and translated into digital movements using algorithms. 

The best part is, once Moley is done with cooking, she cleans after herself and leaves your kitchen spick and span. 

Robot Cook vs Human Cook

The main question that arises when we talk about cooking robots is how are they better than humans?

Well! As of now, they are not. This technology still has a long way to go before it can surpass the efficiency of humans in the kitchen. 

As compared to the robot arms Moley uses, human arms have much more dexterity. Her arms only have 20 degrees of freedom. 

However, one thing that is for sure is that Moley will produce a consistent quality of dishes every time. 

With humans, consistency can be an issue leading to fluctuating quality and taste of food. 

Nevertheless, robots don’t have the ability to innovate, at least not yet. 

Moley, or any other robot, cannot come up with new dishes. Even if she does, she has no way of telling whether the dish tastes good or not. 

Humans have been cooking since the start of mankind which is why as of now, a robot that was only developed less than a decade ago cannot compare to that. 

How Much Does a Cooking Robot Cost?

Since the tech is still relatively new and the Moley Kitchen is a luxury item that took years to develop, the price tag is quite high. 

Depending on your customization needs and the type of dishes you want Moley to cook, the price starts at $134,000 and goes up to $340,000. 

However, the founder and mastermind behind the idea, Mark Oleynik believes that the price will be significantly reduced over time as the economies of scale, production, and volume increase. 

Other Robot Cooks

Apart from Moley, there are a few other kitchen robots that have been designed to provide you with a fully-cooked meal without any supervision. 

One of these robots is Oliver, manufactured by Else Labs. Oliver is a single-pot cooking robot that adds all the ingredients to the pan and uses temperature sensing and machine vision capabilities to cook the required dish.

Another device that operates on similar lines is the iWonderCook which is an automated machine that cooks using a meal kit service and food cartridge provided by the company. 

The Yo-Kai Express Takumi is another robot designed for all the ramen lovers out there. It takes frozen ramen bowls and reconstructs them for the user. 

Last up is Samsung Bot Handy which is designed to help around the house but can also do the dishes and pour ingredients for you. It cannot cook though. 

Contemporary Establishments that have Robot Cooks

There are not many robot cooks employed as of now, but an interesting establishment that is staffed with robots is the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan. 

The hotel has a dinosaur robot to check guests in. 

In addition to this, they have also employed a robot chef whose specialty is the okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake. 

The Henn-na hotel is the first to use robots for commercial cooking. 

In addition to this, the robot chef with four arms is also programmed to provide a buffet-style meal to customers once a day. 

It uses similar technology to Moley but is a humanoid robot that moves around the kitchen like a chef. 

What Does the Future Hold for Robots for Cooking

We have been hearing about the rising automation and robots replacing humans for almost a decade now. 

Many of us have watched movies where AI outsmarts humans to create a world that robots control. 

However, this is nothing but an exaggeration. Robots have been designed to help humans. 

The same holds for robot cooks. 

They have been manufactured to help humans become better at what they are doing. 

Engineers and scientists are still working on making the technology more sophisticated and easy to access for everyone. 

Studies show that in the upcoming years, robots in the kitchen will become a norm, especially since their prices will reduce significantly. 

Final Thoughts

Until now, many robots have been developed to help humans do their daily chores more efficiently. 

However, none of them can work on their own like the Moley Kitchen. 

This is a great start that gives us a glimpse of what the future holds for us. 

The Moley Kitchen comes with a kitchen of its own. Buyers can choose from a range of premium marbles, onyx, and Corian worktops and kitchen cabinets that will be installed with Moley. 

These kitchen items are designed such that Moley can find her way around them. 

As of now, the company is offering two types of kitchen formats. 

There is the smart Internet of Things (IoT) enabled kitchen that you can buy without the integrated robot.

Then there is a second option, the fully-automated package, that comes with the robot system and fully-automated package. 

You May Also Enjoy Reading:

Frequently Asked Questions

What can a kitchen robot do?

Kitchen robots, depending on what they are designed for, do all the kitchen chores for you.

Will robots replace chefs?

Although robots are more consistent, they lack innovation which is why they will not replace chefs.

How much does a cooking robot cost?

It costs anywhere between $134,000 to $340,000

How are robots used in foodservice?

They are used for cooking and serving food.