A Top Chef in Every Home

Kitchenette developed by KogniHome Cluster of Innovation at Bielefeld Uni-versity to provide assistance in cooking
No more burned milk, and always having the right cooking temperature: preparing even the hardest of dishes should be a piece of cake with the help of KogniChef. The research prototype, which was developed by scientists at Bielefeld University, helps users cook their favorite recipes by providing assistance, for example, with a tablet that can even be operated by voice or gesture if the cook’s hands are wet. In addition to giving detailed cooking instructions, KogniChef can also show different instructional videos on a large display, which demonstrate, for instance, how to separate an egg. The system also tells the user which ingredients have to be used which point during the cooking process, and in which amount. KogniChef is part of the Digital Kitchen from the KogniHome Cluster of Innovation at Bielefeld University.  

“In our increasingly fast-paced world, the kitchen is still the center of family life. It is the place where generations come together and communicate with one another. For this reason, it is especially important that the elderly or those with cognitive limitations remain able to cook,” says Professor Dr. Helge Ritter, Spokesperson for the Cluster of Innovation KogniHome. Cooking with KogniChef works similarly to driving with a driving assistance system, which is why Helge Ritter uses the term “Recipe Lane Assist Warning System” (German: “Rezeptspurhalteassistent”) to describe the system. “The ‘Recipe Lane Assist Warning System’ notifies the user as soon as it notices that it can be of help. For younger users, this might mean assisting them in using alternate ingredients for a recipe, and for older people, reminding them if they skipped a certain step in the cooking pro-cess.” To do this, KogniChef has a number of different sensors, which simplifies the entire process of cooking. For instance, by projecting an interactive light, the system shows the user where the pot needs to be placed, and which ingredients can be found where on the countertop. The stovetop helps directly measure out ingredients. Users don’t even need to keep an eye on the clock because KogniChef displays a countdown to show, for example, how long the eggs must be stirred and monitors the correct temperature of the dishes being cooked. In addition to this, the system ensures that the cooking process doesn’t become unnecessarily drawn out by automatically pre-heating the attached steam cooker or oven. Finally, KogniChef turns itself off after it notices that no one has been standing at the oven after a period of time.

But the kitchen of tomorrow can do even more. KogniChef is connected to the entire KogniHome and can therefore cater to the individual needs of different family members. If the youngest in the family has a nut allergy, for example, KogniChef can alert him while baking that he should not use this ingredient. By communicating with the personal coach, the kitchenette can also assist parents in preparing the optimal diet for their training program. “Health is really at the forefront with KogniChef. For this reason, the kitchen can be integrated with other components in the KogniHome network. Here, it is important to us that the systems do not intervene in a domineering way, but rather work in the background, assisting in daily activities,” explains Ritter. “The kitchen should cater directly to the human user’s needs, which means it is important that the kitchen recognize the users and what they intend to do. It may be necessary, for instance, to raise the coun-tertop for one user to knead bread. The intelligent kitchen of the future should also be able to make these kinds of adjustments.”        

Because leading a self-determined life is par-ticularly important to the researchers, they are working on a special interdisciplinary project called ELSI on the ethical, legal, technical-safety, and social aspects. ELSI stands for Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications. The smart kitchen should not dominate its users or control them, which also applies to the entire KogniHome. It is much more about providing assistance to people, so that they can continue leading active lives even in old age or with cognitive limitations. To accomplish this, the researchers are investigating how assistive technologies must be made so that they can get enough information from users to be helpful, but at the same time not intrude on the user’s privacy or impose rules on the person.

KogniChef is being developed with industry partner Miele, a global leader in premium household appliances, including products for cooking, backing, and steaming. Miele’s world headquarters is located in Gütersloh in the region of eastern Westphalia, Germany. “On KogniHome, Miele is involved in the project management and supports the researchers in developing the concept for interaction with kitchen appliances. The company also provides expertise in how to technically integrate the developed functionalities to interface with Miele’s household appliances,” explains Dr. Stefan Rüther, product engineer at Miele. In addition to this, Miele is also contributing to the development of research data banks, which will enable local, secure data management. Finally, Miele is working with CITEC researchers on KogniChef’s user interface and is evaluating the system.

At the KogniHome Cluster of Innovation, 14 project partners from the region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe will work together through mid 2017 on the networked apartment that supports the health, quality and life, and safety of families, singles, and senior citizens. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided the project with 8 million Euro over a period of three years. The Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITC) is leading the project.      

Prof. Dr. Helge Ritter, Bielefeld University
Spokesperson for the Cluster of Innovation Kog-niHome
Telephone: 0521 106-12123   
Email: helge@techfak.uni-bielefeld.de

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