If you think your flapjack-making skills are unbeatable, then I suggest you sit down, because some high-tech competition is on the horizon. Feast your eyes on the PancakeBot, which for $299 is built to both construct and cook flapjacks with robotic precision.
Debuted last year, the final shipping model of the PancakeBot was on display at the 2016 International Home and Housewares show in Chicago. That's where I put this unique breakfast machine to the test and gave it the most difficult challenge I could think of, printing my face in pancake form.
Brunch with a side of 3D printing
An impressive contraption that's one part 3D printer and one part electric griddle, the PancakeBot is no ordinary automated maker machine. Typically 3D printers --is a classic example -- extrude melted plastic layer after layer to slowly compile a fully three-dimensional object.
Instead, the PancakeBot has a reservoir of wet batter attached to its mechanical printing arm. Underneath sits a flat, electrically heated cooktop that serves as the canvas for the robot's creations. It also transforms the shapes and patterns that the PancakeBot squeezes out into golden and delicious designs.
So just what sort of things can a PancakeBot cook? Last year I saw it make pancakes shaped like butterflies, T. rex dinosaurs and astronauts. Since it can use multiple colors of cake batter at once, you can also make more complicated designs. For example, we were able to have the machine replicate an edible version of our CNET logo.
Passing the face test
At this year's Home and Housewares show though I gave the PancakeBot the ultimate trial, recreating a picture of my face in the form of a flapjack. In order to succeed, the appliance should be able to transform a quick smartphone selfie into a convincing and edible likeness of yours truly.
The results were surprisingly good, and slightly disturbing. After transferring the picture (snapped with an iPhone) to a laptop, a PancakeBot representative traced the main details in the photo using special software. This creates a design PancakeBot can understand. Next we fed the design into the device via its built-in SD card slot.
From here the machine drew the design in batter onto its hot skillet, a process which takes about 3 to 4 minutes. The moment of truth occurred when we flipped the pancake over and I saw my own visage gazing back at me complete with eyeglasses, beard and all.
If you're eager to hook your kitchen up with its very own PancakeBot, you won't have to wait. The device is now on sale directly through the PancakeBot website for $299 and comes in your choice of black or red models. According to its creators there's more in store for PancakeBot including some "exciting new features and capabilities," but company reps didn't elaborate further.