Samsung’s AI-powered kitchen robot Bot Chef was on display at CES 2020 and proves the tech giant’s intentions to invade kitchens and threaten the role of the chef in the kitchen of the future.
According to Samsung, Bot Chef is an “AI-powered chef’s assistant – a ‘cobot’, or collaborative robot – that assists them as they whip up gourmet dishes.”
Bot Chef was demonstrating its salad-making ability for tired and overworked tech journalists and other tech-heads at the world’s biggest consumer technology fair in Las Vegas last week.
Consisting of two white arms, which hang from above they have six degrees of freedom, four main arm joints, and three fingers with diameter, reach and strength similar to that of humans.
Bot Chef, as seen at CES 2020, is designed to collaborate with humans and demonstrations invariably involved human assistance. The human was on hand for cutting veg and generally doing the prep while Bot Chef assembled the ingredients and measured oils and dressings. The arms are designed to move freely throughout the kitchen space, opening cabinets and fridges as well as all the countertop tasks you can imagine.
Bot Chef is a voice-activated assistant which responds to human commands, however, once it has launched a programme for food preparation it is fully capable of guiding humans through the process and delegating tasks. What’s more, the bot can respond to individual requests to alter a recipe mid-flow.
If your Bot Chef doesn't know how to prepare a particular dish, it can download instructions from Samsung quickly and get to work. The company is constantly working on expanding Bot Chef's repertoire of recipe programmes.
In order to make the Bot Chef affordable, the arms are somewhat lightweight. The robot is meant for food preparation in the kitchen, with sensitivity to holding glass bottles and safety feature with knife handling built-in. However, it can’t do any heavy lifting, sorting of ingredients, taking in deliveries or the heavy cleaning that chefs have to endure after service. That will have to be done by humans.
It looks like big tech is serious about getting into the kitchen and taking at least part of the work away from chefs. It could mean fewer menial tasks for chefs, freeing them up to concentrate on creativity, equally though, it could mean fewer opportunities for chefs in the future. The restaurant industry is suffering a staffing crisis and robots could fill a gap.
Food and its future took centre stage at CES 2020, with the announcement of Impossible’s plant-based pork and the Bot Chef was not the only tech on the show that could change the restaurant game as we know it.
BellaBot, is a table-waiting robot cat, a service bot with personality. It is an upgrade on a previous model, the previous version being more utilitarian.
This BellaBot is designed to act as a waiter and deliver food to the table from the kitchen. What makes this version stand out is that it comes equipped with cat face screen animations and meows when it arrives at the table - cute. It can also interact with diners, as reported by BBC. If diners stroke the cat’s ears it reacts with pleasure. “The diner’s hand is warm,” it says. However, if the robot is being interfered with for too long, the expression of the cat face turns angry and gets back to work.
Pudutech, the Chinese firm behind Bellabot, claims that the bot is aimed at the Chinese restaurant industry where many establishments struggle to find waiting staff. The firm claims BellaBot is already in use in over 2000 Chinese restaurants.
It remains to be seen how the BellaBot performs in a bust restaurant during peak service, but on this evidence, it’s not only chefs’ jobs under threat by big tech but front-of-house too.