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20 July 2016

Grilling robot takes over backyard barbecue

Photonics has already made profound contributions to such areas as medicine, energy, and communications to make our everyday lives more efficient. (Hence the name of this blog.) People in all walks of life benefit from the incorporation of photonics technologies. We look forward to future advancements when the technology may help find a cure for cancer, monitor and prevent climate change, and pave the way to other advancements we can’t even visualize yet.

But here’s a photonics-based invention -- already demonstrated – that breaks ground in a new area: the backyard barbecue. Talk about hot fun in the summertime!

The BratWurst Bot made its appearance at the Stallwächter-Party of the Baden-Württemberg State Representation in Berlin. It’s made of off-the-shelf robotic components such as the lightweight Universal Robots arm UR-10, a standard parallel gripper (Schunk PG-70) and standard grill tongs. A tablet-based chef’s face interacted with party guests.

Two RGB cameras and a segmentation algorithm with background subtraction were used to localize each sausage on the grill. A special challenge was the changing color of the sausages. As one was completely cooked and served, the robot replaced it with a new one on the grill.

The BratWurst Bot was developed by the FZI Research Center for InformationTechnology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; FZI also has a branch office in Berlin. A press release from FZI points out that hardware and software components of the grilling robot are also applicable to other processes like cooperative assembly or difficult manipulation tasks.