The rise of robots in restaurant kitchens is a well-known topic, with more and more chefs convinced that kitchen automation could serve as a solution to the staffing crisis plaguing the industry.
Robotic arms capable of assembling burgers or shredding ingredients are nothing new, yet many critics of robotic kitchen technology say a machine can’t replicate a human chef’s ability to taste food as it cooks.
Now even this limit could be exceeded: in fact, researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a robot capable of mimicking the human process of chewing, tasting and adjusting the seasoning, and at the same time capable of cooking dishes that are appetizing for the human palate.
The Cambridge University robot-chef is able to assess the taste of a dish at different stages of the chewing process and has already been programmed to make omelettes based on human tastes. He can also provide feedback, tasting nine different variations of a dish of scrambled eggs and tomatoes, at three different stages of the chewing process, while also providing “flavor maps” of the different dishes.
“Most cooks, including home cooks, are familiar with the concept of tasting during the preparation of a dish, that is, checking during the cooking process to verify if the balance of flavors is correct, says the author of the document. Grzegorz Sochackifrom the Cambridge Engineering Department – So if we think of a robot to use for food preparation, it’s important that it be able to taste what it’s cooking.”
“When we taste, the chewing process also provides continuous feedback to our brain,” says project co-author Dr. arsen abdulali also from the Department of Engineering – current electronic testing methods only test a single snapshot of a homogenized sample, but we wanted to replicate a more realistic chewing and tasting process in a robotic system, which should result in a tastier final product.” .
The “tasting” of the robotic arm is done through a salinity sensor, since flavor is the simplest taste component to analyze. “We needed something cheap, small and fast to add to our robot so it could go through the tasting process – it had to be cheap enough to use in the kitchen, small enough for a robot and fast enough to be used in the kitchen used during cooking, “explains Sochacki.
The results of the Cambridge investigation were published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI.