Design Engineering student Ben Cobley has created a Raspberry Pi–powered sous-chef that automates the easier pan-cooking tasks so the head chef can focus on culinary creativity.

Video by Ben Cobley.

Ben named his invention OnionBot, as the idea came to him when looking for an automated way to perfectly soften onions in a pan while he got on with the rest of his dish. I have yet to manage to retrieve onions from the pan before they blacken so… *need*.

The full setup (you won’t need a laptop while you’re cooking, so you’ll have counter space). Image: Ben Cobley.

A Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the brains of the operation, with a Raspberry Pi Touch Display showing the instructions, and a Raspberry Pi Camera Module keeping an eye on the pan.

Ben’s affordable solution is much better suited to home cooking than the big, expensive robotic arms used in industry. Using our tiny computer also allowed Ben to create something that fits on a kitchen counter.

What can OnionBot do?

  • Tells you on-screen when it is time to advance to the next stage of a recipe
  • Autonomously controls the pan temperature using PID feedback control
  • Detects when the pan is close to boiling over and automatically turns down the heat
  • Reminds you if you haven’t stirred the pan in a while

How does it work?

A thermal sensor array suspended above the stove detects the pan temperature, and the Raspberry Pi Camera Module helps track the cooking progress. A servo motor controls the dial on the induction stove.

Labelling images to train the image classifier. Image credit: Ben Cobley.

No machine learning expertise was required to train an image classifier, running on Raspberry Pi, for Ben’s robotic creation; you’ll see in the video that the classifier is a really simple drag-and-drop affair.

Ben has only taught his sous-chef one pasta dish so far, and we admire his dedication to carbs.

Training the image classifier to know when you haven’t stirred the pot in a while. Image credit: Ben Cobley.

Ben built a control panel for labelling training images in real time and added labels at key recipe milestones while he cooked under the camera’s eye. This process required 500–1000 images per milestone, so Ben made a LOT of pasta while training his robotic sous-chef’s image classifier.

Diagram of networked drivers and devices in OnionBot robotic sous-chef. Image credit: Ben Cobley.

Ben open-sourced this project so you can collaborate to suggest improvements or teach your own robot sous-chef some more dishes. Here’s OnionBot on GitHub.

Source: Raspberry Pi blog, by Ashley Whittaker.






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