I recently Skyped with Russian entrepreneur and computer scientist Doctor Mark Oleynik, to discuss his recent invention, The Moley Robotic Kitchen. The product was announced in April 2015 and, with crowdfunding and investments, should be officially on the market in 2018 (with a price tag of $100,000). The Moley Robotic Kitchen consists of an actual kitchen workspace (oven and cooktop) and attached robotic arms. The robo-chef learns precise sequences of motions by recording human chefs at work, and re-enacts those motions with its mechanical arms so, given the exact same ingredients, it can precisely prepare the same dish again and again with the push of a button.
Cook’s Illustrated: Can you describe the moment that the idea for this invention came to you?
Mark Oleynik: It’s not a one-minute idea, it’s a process. You see a problem and you find the optimal way to solve it. First, you need to understand what’s the service you want to have in the future. If you wake up 100 years [from now], what would you like to see around you? [My] main expectation is to have any kind of dish immediately when you want it.
CI: How does the robot learn to cook?
MO: We are tracking the motion of the chefs. [Ed note: One of the first recipes they recorded—crab bisque—was with Chef Tim Anderson; they are developing their software library of recipes with different chefs.] There are cyber gloves, motion capture cameras with markers, the video recognition. We use many technologies to make high-precision identification of each motion of the chef.
CI: And the robot moves in real time?
MO: One part of the motion capture is to keep timing the same as the chef. To build the identical dish, you need to have the same initial conditions and same process. [The system comes with special containers for ingredients, which the robot can recognize.]