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Smart kitchen helps chefs who aren't too smart

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Give a man a smart kitchen that projects cooking instructions on the fish and talks to him through a robot, and he'll be lazy for life.

The cooking support system will also teach you how to chop off heads.
Yu Suzuki

Let's face it: Opening up a cookbook, turning the pages, and reading a recipe is hard work. Thankfully, scientists in Japan recognize this and have developed a kitchen that puts recipes right on your food.

Unfortunately, you still have to read, and actually try to cook, by following instructions projected onto your food. But if you go astray a robot called Phyno is there to help out.

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

With a combination of image processing and speech interaction, it's aimed at novice cooks who find recipe jargon confusing. The researchers use the example of how to fillet a fish, something many of us may suck at.

Three ceiling-mounted projectors, aided by two high-speed cameras, overlay computer graphics on the fish along with an animated knife showing where to make the cut.

The researchers say the system is more convenient than using books or displays because it keeps the cook's attention on the task at hand, and can promote safety by illustrating how knives should be used properly. Meanwhile, users won't get fish guts all over their cookbooks or tablets.

Phyno the robot is a cute little droid that can chat with the cook. It explains where to place the fish for slicing as the projectors highlight the cutting board.

Phyno says, 'Let's start cooking! Good luck!' Yu Suzuki

The robot asks the cook whether he or she has completed a step before moving to the next one, continuing until the fish is all sliced up.

"After taking the cooking support system on a trial run, we found that a user was able to successfully complete all of the steps of the cooking process," the researchers note. "The user easily comprehended the CG projections and took interest in the system as a whole."

But there were stumbling blocks, as the system doesn't take into account details such as whether the cook is holding the knife properly. They say more research is needed to develop it.

It's a neat idea, but if there's going to be a robot in the kitchen, I'd rather have it do the cooking.

(Via New Scientist)