A smart kitchen for a lazy chef

Could a smart kitchen turn lazy microwave users into gourmet chefs?

This kitchen takes the easy, 2-minute microwave meal crowds to the next level through barked robot instructions and projected hints and cooking tips.

I admit; cooking is a no-go area. Falling prey to the typical of excuse that 'it's only me, there's no point' I generally live on meals that take no more than 20 minutes to prepare from ingredients found in the local supermarket.

Doubtlessly I'm not the only one. That's why Japanese scientists have considered the lazy chef in their latest project -- creating a kitchen which walks you through the cooking process.

Developed by Yu Suzuki and a team at Kyoto Sangyo University, the "cooking support system" is being presented at the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Computer Human Interaction (APCHI 2012) in Matsue, Japan next week.

The kitchen the team created is kitted out with ceiling mounted cameras and projectors which send out instructions. Rather than pausing to check a book or screen, the projections appear close to where you're cooking -- which means amateur cooks can visually understand what they need to do, according to Suzuki.

The scientists use filleting a fish as an example. Laid down on a chopping board, the cameras detect its outline and direction -- overlaying the ingredient with lines that indicate the best places to cut. Not only this, but speech bubbles appear with hints and tips on each step.

Still stuck? Never fear, as the kitchen also comes with its own robot assistant called Phyno. Sitting on the counter, the robot detects when a user stops interacting with their ingredients. Phyno then asks if the step is complete -- say no, and the helper repeats a recipe's instructions for you.

However, the system does have its limits.

"Currently we have to develop a system based on a manual analysis of real cooking processes," says Suzuki. "So for now the system can only help you prepare fish and slice onions. In the future, we will automate the analysis process."

The University of Washington has also considered the idea of smart kitchens. Jinna Lei and colleagues have used technology similar to Kinect to record cooking actions, tracking a cook and hopefully in the future alerting them to recipe mistakes.

Image credit: Yu Suzuki

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com