Earlier this month, a cybernetic, one-armed sausage chef specializing in bratwurst served up steady stream of German bangers for a celebrity crowd. The robotic short-order cook, called BratWurst Bot, was built by the Forschungszentrum Informatik (FZI) based in Karlesruhe, Germany out of off-the-shelf parts as a technology demonstrator to show how easy it is to create new, practical robots without the need for special fabrication.

BratWurst Bot made its debut on July 7 at the 53rd Stallwächterparty (Stable Guard party) of the Federal government of Baden-Württemberg State in Berlin – a major annual social event first staged in 1965 that attracts businesses, politicians, and international celebrities. Though it looked as if BratWurst Bot was just there to help with the barbecue, it's real purpose was to show how flexible modern robotics have become. FZI wanted to prove how easy it was to put together this type of autonomous robot, as well as showcase how it can interact with people in a service environment.

BratWurst Bot was built using a set of common parts run by a flexible, adaptive software package that can interact with members of the public. It's based on a Universal Robots UR-10 arm equipped with Schunk PG-70 standard parallel gripper hand and a very standard pair of grill tongs. The bratwursts were conveyed from an ordinary tray to a regular gas grill before being plated and served.

For ordering, BratWurst Bot uses a tablet with an ROS-based web frontend. The customer enters their name, which is added to the queue along with a running total of the remaining prep time. A second tablet on BratWurst Bot, complete with toque and dashing mustache, banters with the customers as they wait with witticisms like "hot and greasy," and "delicious sausage" that are no doubt funnier in German.

To keep track of the cooking, BratWurst Bot uses two RGB cameras and a segmentation algorithm with background subtraction. This allows the robot to locate the sausages on the supply tray or grill and monitor their color to determine when to turn them. Meanwhile, the ROS-based BratWurstManager application uses dynamic scheduling and pre-programmed trajectories to make sure the queue of sausages is kept topped up to minimize wait times.

While more than 200 sausages were served, FZI says that the technology involved has less culinary applications, such as in cooperative assembly tasks or complex manipulations.

The brats were alleged to have come out "pretty good."

The video below shows the Bratwurst Bot grilling the brats.

FZI via
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