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Robots, fridges and stoves will manage the kitchen

Housewives of the future may not actually be wedded to or enslaved by their homes. And a busy woman may not have to worry about dinner, unless she wants to prepare that marvellous souffle and dishes of intuition.

Robots will make life much easier around the house, as demonstrated by the Shanghai Corporate Pavilion where a robot rules the kitchen and others do the chores.

While she goes shopping, a woman can send dinner instructions via Internet or mobile phone, and robots will prepare the meal.

There would be a long list of dishes that the robot could prepare: the lady of the house would need only to press some buttons.

That may be the future, but two robots in the pavilion today are preparing 24 dishes from different parts of China for visitors.

The dishes requiring the most elaborate preparation are chicken cubes in chili sauce, shredded beef with green pepper, sauteed shelled shrimps, and shredded meat with beans.

The pavilion invited chefs from different provinces to cook the dishes and every step was programmed into the robots. The chefs later found that the dishes made by the robots tasted the same as the ones they had made themselves, said Lu Wen, project director in charge of the exhibition.

These cooking robots are not humanoid. Each holds an iron pot, a rotating plate and many implements so the ingredients can stirred and served.

They can complete a dish in three minutes and then wash the dishes. But all the ingredients must be prepared beforehand by humans who chop them into uniform sizes and place them in boxes that the robot locates.

In the future, ingredients could be sold raw in supermarkets and shoppers would take them home for the robots.

Lu said the biggest problem with the robots is their size. Each weighs more than 750 kilograms and is about as large as a big wardrobe - it needs a lot of internal capacity to store oil and water.

Within five years the robots will be commercialized for use by the military, in schools and in company canteens, said Lu, adding that it would take another 10 years for robots to be widely used at home.

Future kitchen

The Kitchen for the Elderly is exhibited as a Shanghai model for the Expo's Urban Best Practices Area. And this isn't a distant vision.

The "smart" kitchen has a people-friendly design, smart storage, convenient cooking facilities and a fast alarm system for emergencies.

Draws and cupboards can be opened with just a touch, it's not necessary to pull a knob or handle. Lower-level cupboards can be opened with the touch of a knee or hip. Bending and standing on tiptoe won't be necessary because all cupboards have shelves that can be raised or lowered to a convenient level.

The stove also can be adjusted according to height. A covered cart keeps all the dishes warm until they are served.

Next to the stove is a computer screen and users can easily download recipes.

A smart refrigerator supported by the Internet keeps track of what's stored, how much, for how long, and the use-by date. The screen is on the fridge door and the system can be programmed to reorder when stock is getting low.

Alarm buttons are conveniently placed at the edge of the table, and they are linked to the police, ambulance and fire department.

Home veggies

People will be able to grown their own veggies hydroponically at home and eat fresh, nutritious and safe vegetables every day.

The Shanghai Corporate Pavilion exhibits the home light wave vegetable garden covering 10 square meters with moveable shelves. Vegetables can ripen every 20 days in the environment where light waves emit sun-like radiance, allowing the plants to photosynthesize.

People only need put seeds in a hygienic nutrient fluid and keep the light on. In 20 days the veggies can be picked and eaten. The 10-square-meter are provides enough daily veggies for a family of three.

The big problem is electricity consumption, since the light must be on continuously and an air-conditioner is needed to control the temperature and humidity, said Lin Tian, an engineer at the exhibit.

The techniques might be widely used in commercial farms to ensure uniformity of produce, sanitation and regularity of harvest, said Lin. The system is not affected by weather.


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