Robot Offers 40 million flavor permutations of Ramen

Ramen is a noodle-based dish popular in Japan that has Chinese origins. Bastardized versions of ramen such as Cup Noodles are available throughout the world. In Japan, Ramen shops exist literally everywhere and are usually small shops that can fit 8 to 10 people at a narrow counter. Almost every area of Japan has its own variation of ramen, such as tonkotsu ramen from Kyushu and miso ramen from Hokkaido.

A ramen shop owner in Yamanashi prefecture has developed a robot that serves up a ramen meal based on the customer’s specifications. The shop owner Yoshihira Uchida, spent roughly 20 million Yen or 200,000 USD on the construction of his robot.  Most ramen shops allow the customer to customize their meal by telling their preferences directly to the chef. Unlike most ramen shops, customers can place their custom orders on a computer. Variables such as soy sauce, salt, and richness of the soup will be modified by the robot based on the customer’s choices.

The noodles are cooked by a human, while the soup is created by the robot and the result is delivered via conveyor belt. According to the Mainichi article, the whole process takes only two minutes and the price of one bowl is only 500 Yen (5.42 USD). By Tokyo standards the price is very competitive.

Although the robot was finished in November 2008, Uchida struggled through setbacks only a ramen entrepreneur would encounter. Issues such as ramen with no taste, and computer crashes caused by spilled soup needed to be overcome. Uchida next plans to develop a robot that can handle the noodles, toppings and he plans to shrink the robot itself. He stated, "I want to mass produce the robot in the future and leave my mark out there.”

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