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The problem with robot chefs…

The problem with robot chefs…

Posted on 10th May 2022

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about a study from Switzerland that purports to show which jobs are most likely to be taken first by robots.  “Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers” were amongst the top ten “at risk” jobs, but one, related vocation which wasn’t listed might now also be under threat. 

I was intrigued to read that Cambridge University scientists have developed a robot that takes over some of the job of a chef. 

The first robot chef was devised in 2015 by a Russian mathematician, computer scientist and entrepreneur called Mark Oleynik.  Since then, robots that can “taste” the saltiness of food have been developed, but the problem the boffins had is that this only applied to “static” food.  Once we humans start chewing, the taste changes and it is therefore necessary for a (human) chef to sample his or her dishes as he or she cooks to ensure they are sufficiently seasoned.

To imitate the human process of chewing and tasting in their robot chef, researchers attached a probe – which acts like a saltiness sensor – to a robot arm. The robot then tried scrambled eggs and tomatoes, seasoned in nine different ways at three different stages of the chewing process. To imitate the change in texture caused by chewing, the team then put the egg mixture in a blender and had the robot test the dish again. The results showed that the robot improved its ability to assess saltiness, when compared to other electronic tasting methods.

Me, I’m not convinced. Even if I was the world’s biggest fan of robot chefs, I suspect I’d get fed up of scrambled eggs and tomatoes fairly quickly.  Of course, the scientists will find ways for our robot friends to assess the taste and texture of other dishes, but in the meantime, I suspect that the reason chefs were not on that previous list of ‘at risk jobs’ is pretty obvious.  Besides, would you really want to watch an episode of “Master Robot-Chef?”  Deprived of the human drama, it would be turgid, turn-over TV…

Scott Bentley, Be-IT

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