An idea hatched in 2006 by Cui Runquan, a Beijing chef, has spawned a new legion of robots to perform the mundane task of making noodles in restaurants -- an assembly-line repetitive activity that is tiring for human workers. The chef says his robots are cheaper for restaurant owners.
A roomful of the Chef Cui noodle-slicing robots invented by Cui Runquan to perform the arduous and repetitive task of slicing noodles in restaurants. The robots use movements similar to a windshield wiper to slice noodles rapidly with one hand from dough held in the other. (Source: Zoominuk)
Inspired by his experience at his own restaurant, Runquan invented the first version of the robots in 2007. Soon after that, he began the task of designing and producing them. The latest version of the machines -- dubbed the Chef Cui robots -- is the fourth version and has been in mass production since March. Each robot costs about $2,000, while one worker doing the same job would cost a restaurant owner about $4,700 a year, according to CNet.
The robots have multicolored torsos and heads and eyes that flash yellow lights. They use movements similar to a windshield wiper to shave noodles with one hand from dough held with the other. The noodles go into a pot of boiling water, and voila -- a new batch of Chinese noodles is ready.
"As there are more and more job opportunities, the young people don't want to work as a chef to slice noodles, because the job is very exhausting," Runquan says in the video that appears below. "It is the trend that robots will replace men in factories. It is certainly going to happen in sliced-noodle restaurants."
That's right, Chuck. I find it so interesting when robots are designed to resemble humans. It seems there are very few functions that are enhanced by human resemblance. As an example, some form of wheel makes more sense for mobility than two legs in almost any environment.
What really struck me was the size of the thing. Being humanoid is one set of discussions, but full-size in a cramped kitchen seems more like a gimmick than anything else.
The other question is adaptability. It seems to work fine for a BIG block of dough as in the video. However, why the technology can be adapted to other types of foods, it would seem that much else would require more human intervention / setup which would kill the cost savings.
Also, any idea on the maintenance and cleaning required? (Yes, I know China does not have the FDA).
@jhankwitz: It's true that the vendors are making a big deal about the humanization and emoticon capabilities of these new robots. In some cases, it definitely makes sense, especially if there is a scenario that mimics one-to-one interaction, not just co-working on a task. But I do agree, in this case, once again, it's overkill and likely a reason to sell the robot for a much higher price tag.
Maybe if we quit calling them robots they would fit in better. Just call it a Remotely Operated Better Operating Technical System, or ROBO- wait a minute! That didn't work! I better think about this...
In part of the robotics world, human-like configuration seems to hold some value. Not sure why. One thing I like about robots that are designed entirely for function is the elegance of their shapes and movements. Human-form robots have always seemed a bit inefficient and creepy to me.