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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tech expo: Never send chef to do robot's job


Staff writer

Japan's state-of-the-art robot technologies have reinvented factory assembly lines and wowed the world with humanlike androids, but wider applications loom and a Tokyo exhibition that kicked off Tuesday will serve some of them up — literally.

News photo
Bot time to flip it: Okonomiyaki Robot, developed by Osaka-based Toyo Riki Co., flips "okonomiyaki" — Osaka's signature pancake — Tuesday at the International Food Machinery and Technology Exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward. SATOKO KAWSAKI PHOTO

Several robots showed off their unique skills during the International Food Machinery and Technology Exhibition, dubbed FOOMA Japan, which runs through Friday at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward.

During the "Robot Food Park" demonstration, Okonomiyaki Robot, developed by Osaka-based Toyo Riki Co., boasted its prowess in cooking "okonomiyaki" — Osaka's trademark meat, vegetable and seafood pancake.

The robot, about the size of a human, skillfully uses its two arms to mix the dough, oil up a pan and flip the okonomiyaki when the time is right.

It can even communicate verbally, asking the audience questions such as whether they want mayonnaise on their okonomiyaki.

Narito Hosomi, head of Toyo Riki Co., said using an android to cook isn't very practical, but it shows what robots can do with the right programming.

"I think the demonstration can prove very straightforwardly that a robot can do things," Hosomi said, and this may lead people to realize robots have a wide variety of uses.

Another robot at the expo looks like a table standing about 1.2 meters high, with two small tires on its one leg. Produced by Laksmi-Do Co., at first glance the robot appears unstable, but it demonstrated it can move smoothly and carry a cup of orange juice.

The firm said the robot can be used in restaurants or factories that handle delicate parts.

An "otetsudai" (helper) robot demonstrated its ability to use a fork to pick up food and feed it to a person.



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