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Robot chefs popular money saver in impoverished Portugal

Posting in Technology

Cooking robots sound like an expensive luxury, but they are an extremely popular way to tighten family budgets in one of the Europe’s poorest countries.

Yesterday, the WSJ profiled the success of Bimby, also known as Thermomix, in Portugal. Bimby is a German-made kitchen aid that automates cooking. It’s a versatile food processor that does all the prep work (cutting, mixing, kneading) and will also cook (baking or steaming) and season. Actions are carried out in a mixing bowl via programmable instructions, and that includes seasoning meals according to a recipe's specifications.

Its functionality has made it possible for Portuguese to keep with tradition and get together with family and friends for large meals at a time when many are lacking the free time to cook but cannot afford to eat out, the article says. That is happening despite Bimby’s relatively high price tag.

A Bimby runs around US$1,300, which the WSJ says is around twice the monthly minimum wage in Portugal. Bimby was even more popular than Apple’s iPad tablet in 2013, outselling it by a substantial margin. Nearly 10 percent of Portuguese households have one, the manufacturer says.

Bimby’s success (it’s known as Thermomix in most places) portends a future where robots are assistive, cost-saving technologies in our homes or workplaces. Robotic floor sweepers and gutter cleaners are familiar novelty items (one even being lampooned on Breaking Bad), but some scenarios are more practical than those.

For instance, robots could soon assist seniors at a lower cost than nursing care, help disabled people to walk, and are beginning to said farmers to manage their land better.

I’m bullish on robotics because the cost of components is falling with the introduction of advanced input technologies such as the Kinect, and ample high capacity computing is available in the cloud. Robotics is also being taught in some schools to introduce kids to science. Future robots might even assemble themselves.

There may be a steady robot progression from the kitchen to nearly all aspect of our lives, and even more advanced Bimbys on the horizon. Robotics is just in its nascent years.

(image credit: Bimby.net)

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— By on December 26, 2013, 9:36 AM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure