Choose the dish you crave and let your robotic chef do the magic for you, including clearing up and washing the dishes afterwards. That’s what Moley is designed to do. The futuristic kitchen was designed by London based Moley Robotics, founded in 2015, and is promised to be launched for customers in 2018 . The introduction of Moley falls within a wider growing trend of household robotics that has been seeing a compound annual growth rate of 31% in 2017. The International Federation of Robotics estimates that more than 6.1 million units of household robots were sold in 2017, valued at $1.6 billion, marking a one third increase of those sold in the previous year . Can Moley harnessed this trend through an economical, innovative and sustainable product or is this just an expensive toy that will soon fade away as the company garbles in managing this sophisticated machine to make a practical product with an appealing value proposition?
Capitalizing on recent improvements in machine learning and robotics, Moley Robotics sought to meet an increase in demand in household’s robotics by building cutting edge intellectual kitchen. The two-armed robot learned cooking by observing MasterChef Tim Anderson, the champion of the UK’s MasterChef TV show in 2011, through wired gloves and specialized 3D cameras . The special kitchen which sits behind a clear glass also includes a stove, a sink and a counter where the robotic hands operate to create the desired dish. Beyond, the convince of a machine prepared food, utilizing the applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in food preparation has the potential to minimize food waste by optimizing recipes from available ingredients at the time . However, at $15,000 and with limited track record about its reliability the futuristic kitchen remains to be a hard sell for most customers .
Betting on the fast development of machine learning capabilities to mimic human movements, the smart kitchen company hopes to take a leap in making cooking human-less soon through supervised learning. The company is currently working to build a library of recipes, taught by the actions of human chefs, to reach a critical mass of dishes to appeal to customers with the right appetite of food and risk. In the long run however, the bet is placed on the machine’s ability to learn, unsupervised, making improvised decisions that require judgment closer to the way a human would make. This is easier said than done as we are still in the early stages of teaching robots supervised multi-dimensional skills let alone unsupervised skills and deep learning.
The challenge of machine learning is very complex and requires cutting edge innovation and a large sum of capital to make meaningful progress. On October 2018, Rethink Robotics, one of the leading companies in developing cost effective robots that can be taught new skills, shut down its operation after running out of money and failing to find a buyer. Rethink Robotics has developed two robots, Baxter and Sawyer with the latter learning its move by simply having a human manually teaching it the required moves . The striking similarity between Rethink robots and Moley, with some arguing the superiority of the former raises serious questions about Moley Robotics ability to make money. The company will need to secure enough capital to keep it solvent and ride the wave of personal robotics demand growth to monetize its innovation. Moreover, the Moley kitchen will need to quickly pass the point of being a very expensive toy that can only copies the movements of a human to a truly smart machine that can take the household task to a new level. Only by rapidly developing its ability to perform its task in real world set up with minimal human intervention can it make a compelling story for its prospective. But even then, a serious value proposition to consumers in terms of improved convince, at high reliability and relatively low cost, will need to be made to make the expensive robot worth the investment.
This leaves a key question, will Moley be the nucleus of the kitchen of the future or is it a matter of time before it closes its door and follows the steps of Rethink Robotics?
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