Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 10 July 2020

Robot uses AI to learn to cook cracking good eggs

Machine can optimise omelette according to taste, smell and texture

Robot wars this is not – it’s more Robo MasterChef as one little machine learns how to make an omelette from scratch.

The robot must know how and when to add ingredients and also how to make the omelette taste good, which is a subjective human experience.

Getting it right involves texture, smell and appearance, showing there’s more to cooking than just following a recipe of ingredients.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge worked with the domestic appliance company Beko to train the unnamed robot.

"Cooking is a really interesting problem for roboticists, as humans can never be totally objective when it comes to food, so how do we as scientists assess whether the robot has done a good job?" said Fumiya Iida from Cambridge's department of engineering, who led the research.

The results show that machine learning can be used to record measurable improvements in food optimisation.

Teaching a robot to cook involves complex problems in robot manipulation, computer vision, sensing and human-robot interaction to produce a consistent end product.

Advances in artificial intelligence have led to several prototype robot chefs but, so far, they have not replicated the skills of a human chef.

Other groups have trained robots to make biscuits, pancakes and pizza, but these robot chefs have not been optimised for the many subjective variables involved in cooking.

Egg dishes, omelettes in particular, are considered a test of culinary skill.

"An omelette is one of those dishes that is easy to make, but difficult to make well," Mr Iida said.

"We thought it would be an ideal test to improve the abilities of a robot chef, and optimise for taste, texture, smell and appearance.

“Humans aren't very good at giving absolute measures, and usually give relative ones when it comes to taste," he said.

"So we needed to tweak the machine learning algorithm, the so-called batch algorithm, so that human tasters could give information based on comparative evaluations rather than sequential ones."

But how did the robot measure up as a chef? "The omelettes in general tasted great – much better than expected," Mr Iida said.

The results were first reported in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

Updated: June 3, 2020 08:57 PM

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