Sunday, 2 February 2014

Kitchen micro-automation

One day I'd like a fully autonomous humanoid robot that'll do everything in the kitchen for me. But that still seems a little way off unfortunately. So here are some minor automations to help in the meantime:


The auto-toaster would be similar to a normal toaster, but equipped with some kind of reflectivity colour sensor and some kind of smoke/particulate sensor (like those used in smoke alarms). These sensors would allow users to program the toaster to toast "until it's done", rather than relying on fixed time settings.

The ability to sense "when something's done" also allows flexibility around the heating rate: the user would select the heating rate (low, medium, high) rather than time taken. This would allow for foods that toast better under a longer slower heat.

Tilting cooker

Well, not really a tilting cooker, but a tilting pan grid (i.e. the thing that the pan sits on). A very slight rotating tilt movement would cause movement in the contents of the pan, reducing the amount that food sticks to the pan.

(An alternative is a laboratory style magnetic auto-stirrer, but that could potentially be intrusive into the cooking experience, and of course needs to be washed up.)

Auto-filling sink

A sink tap that fills bowl to optimum quantity and temperature (valve actuator, temperature sensor, flow control sensor). The user would program the system once, (potentially "recording" you filling the sink), then press a single button to use.

Auto extractor hood

An extractor hood with humidity / particulate sensor that automatically turns on and off.

Automated dry products dispenser

Dry products such as herbs, spices, flour, sugar are placed in containers within a dispenser. The dispenser will move the container to position, and dispense by volume (teaspoons, tablespoons, etc) and by mass. This product combines storage and dispensing. It saves time in dispensing, and is also an efficient use of space.

Vibration may be required such that the dry ingredients fall from the container into the measuring receptacle.

Automated wet products dispenser

As with the dry products dispenser, this would be a series of contains of liquid products in an array. When selected the dispenser moves a tube to the mouth of the dispenser and opens the valve allowing the fluid to flow into the measuring receptacle. The measurement would be by mass or volume.

It would be necessary to flush the tube with water and some kind of organic solvent after each use. This could be automated.

It may should be possible to combine refrigerated containers for fluids like milk.

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