You probably think about eating food in one of two ways: as a process to nourish your body and enjoy the flavor of food, or as an “experience.” For the most part, high-end restaurants aren’t serving food that is any higher quality than what you’d find at a mid-level restaurant. Instead, they’re providing you with a unique dining experience — likely by serving the food on something quirky like a hubcap. And nothing says “unique experience” like feeding your friends with an autonomous, chest-mounted robotic arm.
Arm-A-Dine was created by roboticists at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University’s Exertion Games Lab in Australia. It’s intended to provide “a novel two-person playful eating system that focuses on a shared feeding experience.” It accomplishes that with Tinkerkit Braccio robots mounted on vests worn by the diners. A pair of people wear the strange vests, and the robotic arms autonomously pick up food and feed it to them as determined by their current social mood.
Facial recognition determines if your dining partner has a positive or negative expression. If it’s positive, your robotic arm will feed them food. If it’s negative, your robotic arm will feed you the food. That is, quite obviously, bonkers. As you’d expect, user testing showed that eating in this robot-assisted, socially-dependent manner was a conflicted ordeal. But, there is no denying that it accomplishes the goal of providing a unique dining experience. The question is, would you eat your dinner this way?