Co.Design

A Real-Life Rube Goldberg Machine For Cooking

Chefs collaborate online, and this crazy contraption cooks the dinner they imagine together.

Much of what we do online never materializes into a real thing. A snarky tweet or a passionate Facebook status update are both creations that will never have a solid form. They’ll be lost to the digital ocean.

Collaborative Cooking, however, turns your online actions into dinner. By PJADAD, Christian Isberg, Carl Berglöf, and Lasse Korsgaard, it’s a digital platform that allows a group of chefs to control a centralized Rube Goldberg-esque robotic cook. These chefs can pick from 35 different ingredients--from seasonings sprinkled by robotic arms, to vegetables that bounce around the machine like a game of Plinko--that will make their way through a maze of mechanics into a pot that can be stirred and heated remotely. The end goal is a slow-cooked supper--a soup or a stew, most likely--that will simmer for 10 to 20 hours as chefs log in via computer to make their tweaks (all without ever tasting anything). Meanwhile, a printer notates each step in the cooking process, building a recipe for the whole group.


The metaphorical aspects of the project are fascinating, as a means of turning digital thoughts into analog creations. I’m attracted to the idea as a home cook. What if there were such an assembly line food platform I could connect to, picking the ingredients I wanted, stating how I wanted them prepared, and have that meal delivered to me? It would offer me, the hungry end user, the opportunity to feel creative, without ever having to develop the deeper knowledge, skill, or get-of-my-couchiness to cook dinner myself.

I imagine the experience to feel like customizing a pizza from Domino’s to absurd levels. Maybe a robot would be at the other end of the line. Maybe a human would be there instead. Sure, I’d like to watch a livestream as 20 pounds of bacon were pureed and deep fried into a giant, crispy bacon meatball by an autonomous machine incapable of stopping me. But if you hired a few chefs in each city who were game to make my heart attack come true via a simple iPhone app, that works for me, too. So long as they promise me proper anonymity.

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