‘Robo chefs’ dish up the perfect solution in China.
High-tech companies have turned Harbin into a center for research and development in automated machines.
It might seem more like science fiction than science fact, but a Chinese company has been developing a range of “robo chefs” for cafeterias and restaurants.
The Haiying Robot Manufacturing Company turns out more than 1,000 automated “cooks” annually, which cost 100,000 yuan ($15,748) each, at its factory in Harbin, the largest city in Heilongjiang province.
A weird-looking device, the robotic chefs have two high-tech arms that can each whip up 40 different Chinese dishes, including sweet and sour chicken, fried potatoes with green peppers, noodles and dumplings.
Liu Hasheng, who comes from Harbin and is the founder of the company, created the automated arms.
His plan as general manager is to export robo chefs to the United States, Germany and Singapore.
“We plan to take the robotic components to the United States, and assemble the spare parts there,” Liu, 53, said. “Some of the robots are designed to cook Americanized Chinese food with sweetened flavors.”
Apart from the US, other potential markets are Germany and Singapore, according to Haiying Robot Manufacturing.
“The company is currently looking at an American operation, since Chinese food is extremely popular in the US,” Liu said. “Our robot chefs will help to standardize the flavors, and make those dishes perfect for American tastes.”
Liu is part of a growing breed of innovative entrepreneurs in the robotics industry that are setting up shop in Harbin. Indeed, the city has become a center for research and development in automated machines.
Last year, annual revenue from the robotic industry was 1.25 billion yuan. From 2008 to 2013, the industry witnessed a 20 percent annual increase in revenue, data from the city government showed.
With the help of the Harbin Institute of Technology and the city’s robot industrial park, the sector has grown considerably, and there are now 57 companies working in the business.
Last year, China overtook Japan to become the largest buyer of industrial robots after purchasing 57,000 automated machines, an increase of 55 percent compared to 2013.
This accounted for a quarter of global sales, according to China Robot Industry Alliance, an industry body based in Beijing.