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Wonders of artificial intelligence

Tue, June 12, 2018 09:10

 By the Gazette Editorial Board

“ALL meals are cooked to order in three minutes or less,” so reads an answer on the FAQ page of a Boston restaurant (https://v.gd/emiwuz). By all standards, this is no a familiar notice to restaurant-goers. Nor is there any mistake in citing the time it takes the eatery to cook a customer’s ordered meal, however, highly customised it may be.  The magic of it is neither a magician’s trick nor the work of a supernatural force but rather the performance of a robotic kitchen developed by four MIT graduates who merged their innovative skills to find a solution to one of the problems that they once faced as student-athletes on the lookout for fast, healthy and tasty meals with only tight budgets. So, they came up with the idea of employing a specially-designed robot to handle the fast cooking process with the use of seven woks to each of which a heating induction element is attached.

On the face of it, the story of the robotic kitchen in Boston may look like entertaining news or a holidaying good read. In a deeper look, the story dramatises the impressive and expanding entry of artificial intelligence into multiple aspects of social life. It may be that this entry is still of a creeping nature in some fields of life, but its impact all around is indeed concretely felt.

A short while earlier, reports surfaced in the media indicating that robotic machines have been devised to harvest soft fruit, pick up anything from strawberries to apples and allow farm cows to queue up for robotic milking, in addition to pruning, seeding and weeding. Aided by 3D vision, the robotic picker ‘simulates’ and competes with the physical behaviour of the human picker, gripping only the ripe berry and snapping it off the stalk. Some of the prototypes being tested are reportedly in such an advanced stage that would make it possible to see agro-robots operating in fields in some countries of the world as early as next year. Mounted on self-driving trolleys, robotic arms are reshaping the modalities and capacities of agricultural production, admittedly one of the very essential sectors for human survival. 

Robotic kitchens and robot farming have something peculiar about them. The advent of robotics in general has, from one point of view, been cautiously received across the world, given that its technological advantages might in all probability not outweigh its social disadvantages as specifically represented by the ensuing layoffs and the abolishing of a sizable number of jobs. Of all the fields where the entry of robotics is either concretely felt or still creeping, robotic kitchens and agro-robots stand alone. For these are two innovations with a distinguishing capacity to solve any existing problem of shortage in human resources. Quite frequently in fact do we come across media and economic reports depicting how difficult it is for fruit and crop growers to find the sufficient number of migrants and other seasonal workers who can deliver the job.

With the help of the advances in machine learning, visual sensor technology and autonomous propulsion, robotic arms and equipment to succeed the prototypes being tested are promising neater harvesting of soft fruit and crops, consumer-friendly yield, faster production and probably much less cost – four wonderful reflections of the influence of robotics on the quality of life.

“ALL meals are cooked to order in three minutes or less,” so reads an answer on the FAQ page of a Boston restaurant (https://v.gd/emiwuz). By all standards, this is no a familiar notice to restaurant-goers. Nor is there any mistake in citing the time it takes the eatery to cook a customer’s ordered meal, however, highly customised it may be.  The magic of it is neither a magician’s trick nor the work of a supernatural force but rather the performance of a robotic kitchen developed by four MIT graduates who merged their innovative skills to find a solution to one of the problems that they once faced as student-athletes on the lookout for fast, healthy and tasty meals with only tight budgets. So, they came up with the idea of employing a specially-designed robot to handle the fast cooking process with the use of seven woks to each of which a heating induction element is attached.

On the face of it, the story of the robotic kitchen in Boston may look like entertaining news or a holidaying good read. In a deeper look, the story dramatises the impressive and expanding entry of artificial intelligence into multiple aspects of social life. It may be that this entry is still of a creeping nature in some fields of life, but its impact all around is indeed concretely felt.

A short while earlier, reports surfaced in the media indicating that robotic machines have been devised to harvest soft fruit, pick up anything from strawberries to apples and allow farm cows to queue up for robotic milking, in addition to pruning, seeding and weeding. Aided by 3D vision, the robotic picker ‘simulates’ and competes with the physical behaviour of the human picker, gripping only the ripe berry and snapping it off the stalk. Some of the prototypes being tested are reportedly in such an advanced stage that would make it possible to see agro-robots operating in fields in some countries of the world as early as next year. Mounted on self-driving trolleys, robotic arms are reshaping the modalities and capacities of agricultural production, admittedly one of the very essential sectors for human survival. 

Robotic kitchens and robot farming have something peculiar about them. The advent of robotics in general has, from one point of view, been cautiously received across the world, given that its technological advantages might in all probability not outweigh its social disadvantages as specifically represented by the ensuing layoffs and the abolishing of a sizable number of jobs. Of all the fields where the entry of robotics is either concretely felt or still creeping, robotic kitchens and agro-robots stand alone. For these are two innovations with a distinguishing capacity to solve any existing problem of shortage in human resources. Quite frequently in fact do we come across media and economic reports depicting how difficult it is for fruit and crop growers to find the sufficient number of migrants and other seasonal workers who can deliver the job.

With the help of the advances in machine learning, visual sensor technology and autonomous propulsion, robotic arms and equipment to succeed the prototypes being tested are promising neater harvesting of soft fruit and crops, consumer-friendly yield, faster production and probably much less cost – four wonderful reflections of the influence of robotics on the quality of life.