Robots replacing cooks? Robot chefs in Japan make ramen noodles
At the “Fua-men” (available in Japanese) ramen noodle shop in the central Japanese city of Nagoya, two robotic arms are busy serving their hungry customers, make eighty bowls of noodles per day. Kenji Nagoya, the owner of the noodle shop and a robot manufacturer says nobody gets it as accurate as the robots. The robots are produced by AISEI (available in Japanese), an industrial robotics company that has apparently re-purposed its industrial robotic arms for the task of cooking rather than for your more standard industrial process.
Nagoya’s robot factory opened the noodle shop less than a month ago to showcase its latest robotic technology. The noodle shop, which sells a regular noodle bowl with a pork broth-based soup for 7 dollars, is yet to make profit partly due to the large investment in the research and development of the robotic arms. But the restaurant is definitely getting a lot of attention and building its reputation.
“The benefits of using robots as ramen chefs include the accuracy of timing in boiling noodles, precise movements in adding toppings and consistency in the taste.”, said Nagoya.
Humans are not completely out of the equation and do have to step in occasionally to prepare the soup stock, take orders and receive money. The robot arms will take care of the rest. The chief (R2B1 robot at the left) and the assistant chief (R2B2 robot at the right) are pre-programmed to boil noodles, pour the soup into bowls and sprinkle toppings. When their food preparation process is idle, the robots entertain customers by demonstrating various tricks or performing a style of Japanese stand-up comedy.
Customers get to watch the whole process of the automated ramen-making, which takes one minute and 40 seconds per bowl. When asked, customers notice little difference between noodle dishes prepared by real, human chefs, and meals prepared by autonomous robots. For those who appreciate precision in food preparation, you can’t beat robot chefs.
Although first appearing in robotic hotbed Japan, we can expect many variations of robotic chefs to move their way across the world in the coming years.