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."
A little bit of overkill on the size of the robot compared to the actual task it is assigned to do (IMHO), but very fun and cool. Would love to borrow one of these for my kitchen--slicing veggies, preparing lunches. The list is endless!
Beth, that is the next step! A robot that does all the repetitive slicing tasks.
I wonder about a place like China where there are lots of people. On the other hand, it is a good sign that their economy is moving up in the value chain. I expect that the robot shape and the lights, etc. are also good for the visual effect. After all, it is being used in a consumer environment. If it were in the back room, you might want to dispense with the aesthetics.
Maybe they can line up these robots to man the cooking stations at those Japanese steak houses where they make it a show to cut up meats and veggies and cook them on open fires. I bet the robot theme would be quite an attraction.
This is cool, and the video is great. Yet I agree with Beth. The size is overkill. I would imagine an automated noodle slicer does not need to take a human form any more than an automotive welding robot needs to look human.
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.
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.
I saw an article last year that predicted that McDonalds will have unattended robotic resteraunts within a decade. Eventually robots and computers, which are already impacting employment, will be doing a lot more jobs than they do now. Those jobs will be gone forever. What will we do when our workforce becomes so large relative to the jobs available, that there is constant double digit unemployment?
So basically, when I think robot, I think of a human-looking machine. I don't think about robotic welders and whatever, I just picture a human-looking machine. There are a lot of machines that are not called robots, but when you make a machine look human, then they call it a robot. See what I mean?
Good point, Cadman-LT. I've always thought robots were machines that exhibit human qualities. Welders and other factory machines are often called robots partly (I think) because their movements replicate human tasks.
I'm perplexed at the draw to this. I would guess it is cultural. The robot uses motion control technology, but it replaced only one person to save them the repetitive injury. The robot looks like it makes noodles no faster than a human could.
Why not a more traditional noodle press and slitter? Same regimented noodles, but they can be made much faster.
The motion of the dough pan was impressive (small, precise indexes), and one presumes that it also indexes in a vertical direction as the dough block gets pared down. But is duplicating a human's motion exactly the best approach?
It's funny. Right after I read this post, I saw a clip on the local Boston news stations last night about a similar looking robot called Baxter from Rethink Robotics that reminded me of this guy. The company is promising its "common sense" robot will revamp U.S. manufacturing. Big claims, I know, but it seems promising. But just like the robot that's the focus of this post, I wonder if we run the risk of getting so robot-crazy that we overbake what this technology is really well suited to do and end up with more complex manufacturing processes as opposed to really streamlined ones for optimal productivity.
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...
@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.
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).
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