TOKYO – They've got ones that clean, and others that pour drinks, so it was only a matter of time before Japanese inventors came up with robots that can cook.
Various prototype robo-chefs showed off their cooking skills at the International Food Machinery and Technology Expo in Tokyo this week, flipping "okonomiyaki" Japanese pancakes, serving sushi and slicing vegetables.
"We all know that robots can be very useful. We want to take that utility out of the factory so that they can be used elsewhere," said Narito Hosomi, president of Toyo Riki, manufacturers of the pancake-cooking robot.
Japan has one of the world's fastest aging societies and experts say robots can help care for the growing number of elderly, and fill in for the lack of young people willing to take on jobs as chefs, cleaners or caretakers.
Masanori Hirano of Kyoto-based robot lab Squse, which came up with an android sushi waiter, said robots could help manage the stress associated with fine dining establishments.
"If a human does this job, it can be stressful. And if so, they can leave the work to the robot," he said.
Japan is home to almost half the world's 800,000 industrial robots and expects the industry to expand to $10 billion.
Tomio Sugiura, president of Sugiura Kikai Sekkei, which manufactured the vegetable-slicing robot, saw a robot in every home in the near future.
"Nowadays, almost every family has a car. In the near future, every family would be having a humanoid robot that can help out various things at home," he said.