Sony, via its U.S. subsidiary the Sony Corporation of America, has entered into an agreement with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) that will see them work together on artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics research.
In a statement Thursday, Sony said that the initial research and development would look into optimizing food preparation, cooking and delivery. This area was chosen, Sony said, because the technology needed for a robot to handle "the complex and varied task of food preparation" could in turn be applied to a broader range of skills and industries.
"Making and serving food is an immense challenge for automation, so we're excited about the types of machines and software that might emerge as we jointly explore a variety of approaches and solutions," Andrew Moore, dean of CMU's School of Computer Science, said. "Both Sony and CMU aim high, so we are confident this research will produce technologies that impact robotics across a broad number of applications," Moore added.
The majority of the research will happen at CMU's School of Computer Science in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For Sony, Hiroaki Kitano, a corporate executive at the business, will act as project lead.
"This project has the potential to make the vast possibilities of AI and robotics more familiar and accessible to the general public," Kitano said. "Additionally, it could also assist those for whom daily tasks, such as food preparation, are challenging."
Sony said that it would also continue to support CMU's AI and robotics-related research and development through its Seed Acceleration Program, a business incubation platform, and the Sony Innovation Fund, a corporate venture capital fund.
The idea of robots preparing food is not as fanciful as it may initially seem. To give just one example, Flippy, "an autonomous robotic kitchen assistant," has been designed to work in commercial kitchens and alongside human staff.
In possession of an automatic spatula, it can recognize and monitor items on a grill and turn out 150 to 300 burger patties per hour. Its makers, Miso Robotics, add that Flippy is able to learn from its surroundings and add new skills over time.