Pizza Chefs Help Cook Up Dexterous Robots

According to a story on, ” robots have many virtues, but when it comes to manipulating objects they can sometimes be all fingers and thumbs. Now a team of Japanese engineers has turned to an unlikely source of inspiration to improve robots’ dexterity: a pizza parlour.”

“‘An Italian chef dextrously manipulates a pizza in an oven using a tool called a pizza peel,’ says Makoto Kaneko, the team’s leader at Osaka University. A pizza peel consists of little more than a flat blade attached to the end of a long pole, but it gives the chef a surprising degree of control over the pizza. Kaneko’s team has designed a robotic hand based on a pizza peel that allows robots to exert similar control.”

“A pizza chef can only move the peel with two degrees of freedom – back-and-forth and by twisting the pole. Yet the two motions in combination can be used to provide an extra degree of freedom and rotate the pizza horizontally. The Osaka team’s robot ‘hand’ has the same capability, allowing the robot to manipulate an object with great precision. The study will be published in IEEE Transactions in Robotics.”

“Besides being simpler than mechanical fingers, this approach has the advantage that none of the electronics or mechanics need be contained within the manipulator itself. This should be useful for robot manipulators that need to be operated in confined spaces or harsh environments.”