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Robots Are Coming for Your Kitchen

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A London-based company called Moley Robotics has created a prototype for a robotic chef that can cook your meals with human-like precision.

"It's the ultimate sous-chef," says Tim Anderson, the 2011 champion of British reality show BBC Masterchef. "You tell it to do something—whether it's a bit of prep or completing a whole dish from start to finish—and it will do it. And it will do it the same every single time." 

The “robochef” was unveiled this week at the Hannover Messe international robotics show in Germany. It’s the brainchild of Mark Oleynik, and it consists of two human-sized robotic hands powered by dozens of joints and motors. They hang above a cooking station that comes fully stocked with a stovetop and specialized utensils. A hungry user need just choose a recipe from the robochef’s digital library using the built-in touchscreen or the mobile app, and let the autonomous hands take it from there. The robot picks ingredients, stirs concoctions, and manages the stovetop’s temperature. Here’s a video of the bot showing off its skills with a crab bisque recipe: 

The robot’s cooking skills seem eerily human-like, and that’s the point. The machine learns a new recipe by copying the movements of a real chef who wears special, sensor-fitted gloves while preparing a meal. The chef’s movements are recorded and translated into an algorithm that can be programmed into the robochef’s recipe library. The crab bisque prepared in the video was originally prepared by Anderson. “Crab bisque is a challenging dish for a human chef to make, never mind a robot,” Anderson told TIME.com. “If it can make bisque, it can make a whole lot of other things.” 

Indeed, the plan is to load the robochef with more than 2000 recipes created by various chefs, “in effect, bringing a virtual version of a celebrity chef into the user’s house to cook it for him,” The Economist notes. Each recipe will be prepared in the exact same way every single time. 

Oleynik hopes to start selling the robotic kitchen to consumers in 2017 for about $15,000, but it will need a few improvements before then. The current version can’t prepare ingredients, which have to be chopped or peeled by a human and then meticulously positioned in specific spots for the bot to find. Oleynik wants the future robochef to be a full kitchen, including a fridge for storing ingredients and a dishwasher for cleaning them off of plates. The bot may eventually help teach human chefs proper technique for specific cooking skills like chopping or kneading. "It's not an industrial device,” Oleynik says. “It's not a device that works at 10-times normal speed. No, it's a device that moves like you move, and at the same speed as you do."

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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