Mykie: Bosch's Little Robotic Elf for Your Kitchen

With an endearing design and a projector in its butt, Mykie is here to help you cook

3 min read
Mykie, Bosch's Little Robotic Elf for Your Kitchen
Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

At CES last week, one of the major themes was connectivity. Absolutely everything was covered in sensors and connected to the Internet with some sort of app, even if it wasn’t obvious why you’d ever need it to be.

Kitchen appliances were no exception, and Bosch announced both a connected fridge and a connected oven. While an oven that you can control remotely and a fridge that knows what’s inside it are handy enough by themselves, the whole point of a kitchen is to use the food you have in combination with the necessary appliances to create tasty and nutritious meals. Mykie is a little countertop robot that Bosch developed in order to help tie your kitchen hardware together to recipes to make cooking easy and fun.

Mykie is short for “My Kitchen Elf.” I have no idea why it’s an elf, except that it’s small and, er, helpful, I guess? More generally, Mykie is a product concept designed to to be a personal kitchen assistant that can interface with the other appliances in your home. It’s intended to be an embodiment of your smart kitchen—rather than talking directly to your stove or your fridge, which might be weird, you can talk to Mykie, who will listen to you, talk back, and then control the rest of your connected appliances for you.

In addition to voice control, Mykie has a touchscreen you can poke at, but its most useful feature has to be a powerful little projector in his butt.

In addition to voice control, Mykie has a touchscreen you can poke at, but its most useful feature has to be a powerful little projector in his butt. Or, where his butt would be if he had one. Rather than having to rely on Mykie’s little screen, you can just set the robot on the counter, and it’ll project a much larger image onto your kitchen wall. This is especially useful if you need help with your cooking: Mykie can take you through recipes step by step, displaying pictures and videos of the cooking techniques you should be using.

Bosch is hoping that a substantial amount of Mykie’s usefulness will come from the way it can integrate into the rest of your kitchen. For example, you can ask Mykie to come up with recipes that use the food you currently have in your smart fridge, and as you start cooking, the robot will preheat the oven to the right temperature for you at the right time. You can also use Mykie’s “virtual social cooking” to remotely attend cooking classes in real time, following along in your kitchen at home as both Mykie and a human instructor help you cook something that you might not otherwise be comfortable cooking on your own.

Mykie does seem to have a potentially useful niche picked out for itself among a herd of social robots promising to do a little bit of everything. We asked Philip Roan, senior robotics engineer at Bosch Home Appliances and a software developer for Mykie, about what he thought about Mykie’s very “social robot” look, and he told us that Mykie’s designers simply “went for a design that meshes with the rest of our kitchen aesthetic.” In other words, the robot needed to be small and white to fit in with most people’s kitchens, which is the sort of thing we’ve been hearing from other small home robot designers as well.

Mykie is a product concept right now, and as such, Bosch isn’t sharing any information on price or availability. It seems reasonable to expect that they’re not just designing and building robots for fun, though, and our guess is that that Mykie might show up in kitchens within a year or so, if we’re lucky.

[ Bosch ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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