Robot Roommates Prove To Be a Dynamic Dining Duo Cooking Sausage and Pancakes

Robot cook
TUM-Rosie is ready to make the best wurst you've ever tasted.

It’s official: robots make great roommates. Sure, they may hog all the electric outlets and WiFi bandwidth, but they’ll also cook you breakfast. The Technical University of Munchen (TUM) recently demonstrated the culinary skills of two of their robots by having them whip up a traditional Bavarian breakfast of sausage and bread. TUM-Rosie is a unique bot made of Kuka parts that knows how to boil a wurst in the best way. TUM-James is a PR2 from Willow Garage that takes care of the shopping and bread slicing. Together they make one helluva good meal. And this wasn’t even their first time in the kitchen – the duo made pancakes last year! Check out their culinary experiments in the videos below. While getting a free breakfast from a robot is amazing, it’s just a small step towards the ultimate goal: designing, building, and programming a bot that can live and work in human environments.

Here’s the clip of TUM-Rosie and TUM-James working together to build a Bavarian breakfast. TUM-Rosie places the sausages in boiling water, keeping track of how long they’ve been inside to cook them thoroughly. TUM-James picks up a few things at the ‘store’ and then slices the bread with an ordinary electric slicer. The results look delicious:

Also available are full length (non-accelerated) videos of the TUM-Rosie and TUM-James efforts.

Last year TUM-Rosie and TUM-James pulled off making pancakes, with TUM-Rosie in charge of the actual cooking again. Unfortunately this video hasn’t been edited or sped up, so it gets a little tedious. But hey, it’s hard to complain when you’re eating pancakes:

Making a meal is a complex endeavor, and TUM’s Intelligent Autonomous Systems Group has rightfully received a lot of praise (and press) for these demonstrations. Less discussed, but perhaps more important however, is TUM’s considerable contributions to the Robot Operating System. ROS is an open source library for robotics code, and both TUM-Rosie and TUM-James are running on this software. TUM’s description of the code packets used and created for these cooking experiments highlights how interconnected (and thus, mutually supporting) the ROS community has become. There’s software to manage the Kinect sensors, object recognition, control of the cooking utensils, etc. Breakfast is one thing, but what TUM is really demonstrating is how powerful open source robotics can be.

Don't worry Rosie, real world robotic help is on the way!

I fully believe that in the years ahead, small projects like these will snowball into greater efforts. Already, the PR2 (and TUM-Rosie) are safe to move around in human environments. They won’t break your arm if you get in their way, and they won’t crush the objects they pick up. TUM, and other ROS contributors, are building up the library of programming packets that allow these robots to perform various tasks. We’ve already seen how the PR2 can fetch you a beer, fold towels, or clean up after your party, and developers will continue to add on to these capabilities in the near future. Eventually, the compounding nature of shared code on ROS should give us a host of robots capable of performing a huge range of domestic tasks. From there, it’s really just about pricing, availability, and business models. Big hurdles, sure, but the robotics part will be understood.

In the last few years, robot cooks have proven to have at least a novel appeal. Eventually, I think they’ll be invaluable resources in our homes. Cooking, cleaning, laundry – at first they’ll only be able help with these chores, but one day they’ll be able to take over completely. Robots have already revolutionized manufacturing, they’re poised to move into healthcare, and homes are the next frontier after that. It may be a little early to salivate, but make no mistake, robot breakfast is coming.

…and it just so happens that pancakes and sausage is my favorite morning meal. Awesome.

[image and video credits: Technische Universität München]
[source: TUM, Willow Garage Blog]