They take on nursing work, assist in the operating room, work as rescue robots or help in the garden or around the house.

Sensors and artificial intelligence have turned robots into adaptable and versatile machines.

No task seems too difficult for them.

Now robots are gradually conquering an area that was denied them for a long time: the kitchen.

Some machines - mostly robotic arms - can already topping pizza, frying burgers, preparing pasta dishes or Japanese food.

And some robots even clean their workplace independently after the work is done.

Manfred Lindinger

Editor in the department "Nature and Science".

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However, the robot cooks do not know whether what they have just cooked actually tastes good.

A computer program based on a recipe previously dictated how much salt or pepper or other spices had to be added.

Now scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed an autonomous robot that can also determine whether food is seasoned enough or oversalted.

This is made possible by a special probe that the researchers led by Grzegorz Sochacki attached to the end of the mobile robot arm, where the wooden spoon, stirring stick or other cutlery are usually located.

The probe measures the electrical conductivity of the dish, which is essentially determined by the salt content.

The robot can also cook itself – his favorite dish is an omelette with tomatoes.

For their most recent experiments, however, the researchers lent their robotic arm a helping hand.

Sochacki and his colleagues prepared scrambled eggs with tomatoes in nine different ways.

They varied the number of tomatoes and the salt content of the omelets.

A taste map gives the robot orientation

In addition, they put each variant in a blender and pressed the button for different lengths of time – a few seconds and sixty seconds.

In this way, the researchers tried to imitate the process of "chewing".

Chewing doesn't just break food down into smaller, easier-to-swallow chunks.

When we crush it, we also taste more intensely what we are about to eat.

Once the food had cooled, the researchers presented it to the robotic arm to try.

The robot dipped the end of its arm into the food and measured the salt content in different places.

The measured values ​​provided a two-dimensional "taste map" for each sample, which the robot used as a kind of taste reference.

The researchers were able to see from the map that the robotic arm was able to determine the different salt concentrations in the presented omelette variations very reliably (95 percent), as well as the amount of tomatoes present and whether they had been crushed in the blender and for how long.

"If robots are used for certain aspects of food preparation, they should also be able to 'taste' what they are cooking," says Grzegorz Sochacki.

And his colleague Arsen Abdulali adds: "When a robot learns how to cook like any other chef, it also needs cues on how well it did it. In our experiment, the robot can also see the difference in the food while it is being cooked being 'chewed', which enhances its ability to taste."

For this purpose, the robot arm has also been equipped with optical sensors.

In the future, the scientists want to technically improve the robot cook so that it can taste different types of food and tell the difference between sweet and oily food, for example.

The robot researchers want to simulate the effect of human saliva with artificial enzymes.