A robot expert says the squishy dough and many steps involved make the task difficult.
Do you prefer pepperoni? Pineapple and ham? Veggie? One day, you might be ordering your favorite pizza from a robot.
Researchers at a university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are working on creating a pizza-making robot. Although humans may not find it too difficult to roll out dough, slice toppings and pull it all together, it’s not as easy for a robot.
Robots might be great at, say, helping to manufacture cars.
“Robots are basically preprogrammed to repeat the same actions over and over,” says David Held, a robot expert from Carnegie Mellon University, and one of the members of a pizza-making team.
Making pizza, though, has challenges. For instance, the dough is squishy, with a shape that can change in many ways. It’s much easier to program a robot if the object it needs to manipulate has one solid shape.
Also, pizza-making requires many steps — such as rolling, cutting and gathering — and several tools, including a rolling pin, knife and spatula. There are companies that have developed robotic systems that can make pizza using specialized hardware for each step, but using a standard robot arm and common tools to handle all the functions is trickier. What order should the steps be done in? Which utensil should you pick, and when? “If you need to do a cooking task, there are multiple levels that you have to reason about,” Held says.