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Though still out of reach financially for most average households, a number of robotics think tanks across the globe have devised robot chefs to perform a range of preparation, cooking or baking tasks — some even entertaining as they prepare a wealth of recipes. Some of the models are more compact or versatile than others. One Chinese model of robot chef even resembles the iconic family robot, Rosie, from the popular US cartoon The Jetson's, but without the cleaning expertise and observant butleresqe comebacks.
According to a 2010 New York Times article, 17 Carnegie Mellon University faculty members have united in recent years to create a handful of robots that divide many common kitchen tasks. A teenager-sized Snackbot serves as a gopher, baker and stirrer of sorts. The Motoman kitchen robot can work a restaurant-sized grilling operation with aplomb — an advance with the potential to pique the interest of restaurant owners and pique the ire of human chefs.
China boasts of being the first country to create a robot chef, the Fanxing Science and Technology Corporation's AIC-AI Cooking Robot made in 2006. Costing about $750,000 US Dollars (USD) to make, the AIC-AI could perform most cooking operations, often with its own internal convection oven. Later models of this and other groups' robot chefs could also be taught to operate external ovens, as long as the software was compatible.
Other research and development efforts followed, such as those at Carnegie Mellon, MIT and the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory in Switzerland, each producing robots with wide-ranging abilities to receive verbal commands and perform tasks as intricate as cracking an egg. Many other efforts have addressed more specific and mundane kitchen tasks. A Japanese restaurant named Famen features two ramen-making robots that entertain with knives during downtime. Others are designed to just make pancakes, omelets or perform unpopular preparation tasks like peeling potatoes or slicing onions.
The more advanced, multipurpose robot chef of 2011 — such as the one invented by China's Liu Changfa that was featured in 2007 at CNET's gadget blog -- will allow its users to program hundreds of recipes and command the robot chef with verbal cues to which the robot responds with often-witty comebacks. Before starting in on the meal, Changfa's robot will fix guests a drink to make the wait more bearable. The wait is then rewarded with the on-board computer's breadth of data. Some modern robots have been programmed to include every dish from several regions of China.
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