There's nothing like having an extra pair of hands, even if they are attached to a pair of robot arms descending from a kitchen cabinet. And as unsettling as that might look, Samsung's Bot Chef could be a glimpse into our robot-assisted future in the kitchen.
These robot arms are studded with sensors and packed with enough intelligence to chop, dice, stir and even operate other kitchen gadgets using nothing more than voice commands.
At CES 2020, I watched the Bot Chef turn on a stove, dice up some tofu, stir the tofu in a pan, rummage through a drawer for Sriracha, squeeze the spicy sauce into a bowl, and even load a coffee machine and brew a cup of joe. While Bot Chef's movements were slow and deliberate, I was impressed by at all it could accomplish.
The Bot Chef is basically two arms, each about 2.5 feet in length, that articulate in three sections. At the end of each are three-finger hands not much larger than that of an adult male's, though these robot hands can rotate as well as grasp objects.
Sensors in and around the arms allow them to search for and identify items; for example, the Bot Chef was able to pick up a knife from one wall and a spatula and spoon from another. Those sensors also detect when a human gets too close. When that happens, Bot Chef will stop moving, so it doesn't slice off someone's finger. (The first law of robotics still applies in the kitchen, after all.)
During the demonstration, the chef/presenter asked the Bot Chef to help him make a salad; the Bot responded through a speaker, and presented a selection of recipes on a display. After choosing a tofu/cabbage salad, the Bot Chef then outlined what needed to be done next. As Bot Chef diced up the tofu, it asked the flesh-and-blood chef to prepare other ingredients, for instance.
Samsung also showed off how Bot Chef could learn new skills on the fly. When the presenter asked Chef Bot to make a cup of coffee, it responded that it didn't know how. The assistant then told the Chef Bot to download the skill; a few seconds later, the Chef Bot gained the ability to load a pod into a coffee maker, place a cup underneath, and then press the button to start the coffee machine. It was like watching Keanu Reeve's training scene in the Matrix come to life, only with kitchen appliances.
Samsung doesn't have any information on when the Bot Chef would be available, or how much it would cost, but a representative said the smart kitchen assistant's price wouldn't be exorbitant. Still, I have a feeling that if you can afford the Bot Chef, you'd probably be able to afford a real chef.
Be sure to check out our CES 2020 hub (opens in new tab)for the latest news and hands-on impressions out of Las Vegas.