Robot Learns to Cook Your Perfect Omelet

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        For personal cooking robots to make us food that we love, they’re going to need to be able to listen to our feedback, understand what that feedback means, and then take actions to adapt their recipe or technique to achieve the desired outcome. This is more complicated than, say, adding less salt next time because it was too salty this time—the robots will have to work with less easily definable things like appearance and texture, and the totally subjective nature of human taste.

        At ICRA 2020 this week, roboticists from the University of Cambridge, in England, presented a paper on OmeletteBot, a fully autonomous end-to-end omelet-cooking robot. What’s new here is that the robot is able to optimize its omelet making for different people based on how they react to a few sample omelets. Your perfect omelet is now within reach.

        The ideal way to approach this problem would be to have a human sample every possible combination of parameters to find their ideal omelet, but this is obviously impractical. And making everything more difficult is that humans get full quickly, our memory is short, and we change our minds often. Maybe the first omelet you taste is pretty great, so you give it an 8/10 on flavor, but your next omelet tastes twice as good—then what do you do?

        The researchers employed a solution to this problem called batch Bayesian optimization. The more traditional sequential Bayesian optimization would take a human’s score of each omelet and use it to modify the cooking process for the next omelet, but this approach doesn’t work well because the human feedback is, as the researchers tell us, “often ambiguous and relative.” By running the optimization process only after all scores have been collected, the robot is able to explore many more combinations of variables, yielding a substantially better end result. Instead of the omelets gradually getting better as you go, you’ll instead be tasting them randomly, but you’ll end up with a much tastier omelet.


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