Food by VICE

This Robot Reads the Internet to Teach Itself to Make Pancakes and Popcorn

Because what better reason to spend so much time, energy, money, and resources creating such cutting-edge robotic technology than to boss it around and make you food all day?

by Javier Cabral
Aug 26 2015, 2:00pm

The line separating humans and robots is now as blurry it has ever been; we already have robot waiters, butchers, and bartenders. But now, a robot in Germany can successfully whip up perfect pancakes at your command.

But here's the best part: It teaches itself to cook by reading step-by-step guides from the popular, often-baffling DIY website WikiHow. Hey! It turns out that robots are just like us! That's right, the same website that taught you how to properly dress emo for school without overdoing it and how to hide an erection is now teaching robots how to make basic foods.

READ: Robots Are Quietly Infiltrating the Food Service Industry

The aspiring robot cook, named PR2, is also currently learning the art of pizza-making as part of a European project called RoboHow, a project that is exploring ways of teaching robots to understand and perform tasks purely through language commands. The goal of the project is for robots to better understand human communication and become more self-sufficient when told to do something, as opposed to the old-school way of having to program a robot ahead of time.

And according to RoboHow's website, some of the android activities at hand include making popcorn (from a pot) and mastering the flip while preparing non-burnt pancakes for you. Because what better reason to spend so much time, energy, money, and resources than to create cutting-edge robotic technology that functions as your personal chef?

The software that is making all of this AI cookery possible—alongside instructional videos for the 'bots—is Open Ease, an online database that is available to aspiring robot cooks around the world. The program takes instructions for cooking or performing other simple tasks and encodes them into a machine-readable language.

While this development sounds like the peaceful beginning scene of a sci-fi movie plots in which robots eventually become too intelligent, overthrow their human captors, and kill everybody, for now it's just another milestone in our civilization's race to automate pretty much everything that we used to have to do ourselves. After all, we've already figured out how robots can been used to diffuse attempted suicides by delivering pizza and how one of the world's best artisan bakers is even considering turning to robots for help.

Still, based on the YouTube video that RoboHow's posted of PR2 ever-so-slowly flipping one fake pancake, it looks like the researchers have a long way to go before you can expect to wake up to ChefTron 3000 presenting your Sunday brunch.