We are the robots!

PAT PILCHER salivates at a hi-tech remote cooking demo and considers the amazing potential of 5G technology.

Sometimes, worlds collide most advantageously. A recent collision involved two of my favourite things: food and technology.

Samsung and Spark teamed up to showcase how 5G mobile data can be used for telepresence tasks by getting renowned chef and Master Chef judge Simon Gault to cook a meal for a pack of hungry tech journalists.

While you’d be forgiven for muttering, “Who the fuck cares?” the clever part is that Simon was 600 kilometres away from where we were eating!

So, how did Simon pull off this seemingly magic feat of culinary wizardry? The man might be one of the most capable chefs NZ has, but cooking crayfish tails over a 600km distance should be beyond even the most serious culinary magic.

Enter stage left Samsung and Spark. Using Samsung’s 5G networking gear and Spark’s 5G network plus a liberal sprinkle of advanced robotics courtesy of RML Machinery and ABB Robotics (that had the unfortunate nickname of Robo-Chop – I swear I never heard it ask anyone if they were Sarah Connor!), lunch was cooked. As you’d expect from Simon Gault, it was freaking epic!

So why use 5G? Why use a robot? Why not stick Simon on a plane and have him cook lunch in Wellington? While most people associate 5G with super-fast mobile data, it has another handy characteristic that makes it ideal for remotely cooking lunch for hungry journalists: low latency.

When Simon in Auckland decides to pick up and place, flip, and move a crayfish tail on the grill, the time it takes for him to send the instruction to Robo-Chop in Wellington and for Robo-Chop to execute and acknowledge the command back to Simon in Auckland is known as latency. With older 4G networks, the delay between issuing commands to Robo-Chop and having them actioned and acknowledged is just too slow, meaning Simon would probably end up with kitchen chaos if he were to even try it.

The kitchen set-up saw Simon using a Galaxy tablet to drive Robo-Chop and a series of remote cameras so he could see what was happening in real-time. A camera at his end broadcast a video stream to us in Wellington over 5G so he could step us through the cooking process.

 

In theory, the process could be scaled up to allow chefs in one location to virtually cook at multiple restaurants without having to sacrifice the quality of the food. While the cooking demo was little more than a PR stunt, it does highlight what could be one of the most compelling use cases for 5G in New Zealand. NZ’s health system is struggling due to a shortage of surgeons and other specialist medical staff. Shortages recently got so dire that in Christchurch, there were temporary closures of their only 24-hour doctors’ surgery on multiple occasions.

With surgical and specialist jobs clustered in larger metro centres, there’s a serious shortage of specialised health services in New Zealand’s regions. This has seen surgery and specialist consult waiting lists ballooning out. With Australia able to offer better salaries and a higher standard of living and med school graduates heading overseas seeking better money to pay off their massive student loans, filling this gap isn’t likely to happen soon.

But what if a surgeon in Auckland could operate remotely on a patient in Christchurch using super responsive 5G and telepresence robotics? This might sound far-fetched, but the technology is developing rapidly, and has been successfully trialled in many hospitals around the world. The benefits are potentially huge and could see healthcare become more widely available in locations where healthcare professionals are scarce. While the upfront cost is high, the long-term benefits vastly outweigh any costs.

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2 Comments

  1. Cannot see anything actually related to 5G in this scenario. Not a good use case.

  2. In the story it is explained how the low latency for operating a robot remotely OVER 5G is a key use case for 5G… Sorry you seemed to have missed that…

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