Robot Learns to Cook Your Perfect Omelet

Evan Ackerman wrote . . . . . . . . .

Cooking robots have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. We’re not yet at the point where we’ve got robot arms dangling from the ceiling that do all the work for us, but there are a bunch of robots out there with reasonable cookie-making skills. However, we’ve mostly seen cooking robots that are programmed to follow a specific recipe, rather than cooking robots that are programmed to cook you exactly what you want. Sometimes these are the same thing, but often cooking is (I’m told) much more about adapting a recipe to your individual taste.

For personal cooking robots to make us food that we love, they’re going to need to be able to listen to our feedback, understand what that feedback means, and then take actions to adapt their recipe or technique to achieve the desired outcome. This is more complicated than, say, adding less salt next time because it was too salty this time—the robots will have to work with less easily definable things like appearance and texture, and the totally subjective nature of human taste.

At ICRA 2020 this week, roboticists from the University of Cambridge, in England, presented a paper on OmeletteBot, a fully autonomous end-to-end omelet-cooking robot. What’s new here is that the robot is able to optimize its omelet making for different people based on how they react to a few sample omelets. Your perfect omelet is now within reach.

The goal here is for the quality of the omelet to be optimized for an individual human across a few different metrics, all of which are subjective. In this case, the omelet is being evaluated on three metrics: flavor, appearance, and texture, each on a 1 to 10 scale. Meanwhile, the robot has a variety of different parameters it can adjust, including shakes of salt, shakes of pepper, whisking time, in-pan mixing time, and time on heat.

The ideal way to approach this problem would be to have a human sample every possible combination of parameters to find their ideal omelet, but this is obviously impractical. And making everything more difficult is that humans get full quickly, our memory is short, and we change our minds often. Maybe the first omelet you taste is pretty great, so you give it an 8/10 on flavor, but your next omelet tastes twice as good—then what do you do?

The researchers employed a solution to this problem called batch Bayesian optimization. The more traditional sequential Bayesian optimization would take a human’s score of each omelet and use it to modify the cooking process for the next omelet, but this approach doesn’t work well because the human feedback is, as the researchers tell us, “often ambiguous and relative.” By running the optimization process only after all scores have been collected, the robot is able to explore many more combinations of variables, yielding a substantially better end result. Instead of the omelets gradually getting better as you go, you’ll instead be tasting them randomly, but you’ll end up with a much tastier omelet.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Watch video at You Tube (2:32 minutes) . . . . .

Grilled Chicken Schnitzel with Fennel Slaw


3 slices (100 g) white bread
50 g butter
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 x 200 g chicken breast fillets, trimmed and sliced lengthways lemon wedges, to serve

Fennel slaw

1 bulb fennel, very finely sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons store-bought whole-egg mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water


  1. Place the bread, butter, thyme, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process in short bursts until mixture makes fine crumbs.
  2. Place the chicken on a baking tray and top generously with the crumb mixture. Place under a preheated hot grill (broiler) and cook for 7-8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and crumbs are golden.
  3. To make the fennel slaw, combine the fennel, chives and parsley. Whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and water and toss through the fennel mixture.
  4. Serve the salad with the schnitzel and lemon wedges.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: Donna Hay

High Blood Pressure is key COVID-19 Death Risk

Patients with hypertension appear to be at a higher risk of dying from the coronavirus, said a top Chinese intensive care doctor who’s been treating critically ill patients since mid-January.

While there’s been no published research yet explaining why, Chinese doctors working in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus first emerged, have noticed that infected patients with that underlying illness are more likely to slip into severe distress and die.

Of a group of 170 patients who died in January in Wuhan — the first wave of casualties caused by a pathogen that’s now raced around the world — nearly half had hypertension.

“That’s a very high ratio,” said Du Bin, director of the intensive care unit at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, in an interview over the phone from Wuhan. He was among a team of top doctors sent to the devastated city two months ago to help treat patients there.

“From what I was told by other doctors and the data I can see myself, among all the underlying diseases, hypertension is a key dangerous factor,” said Du, one of the most respected critical care experts in China. “Though there is no research published on that yet, we believe hypertension could be an important factor in causing patients to deteriorate, leading to a bad prognosis.”

As the outbreak picks up speed in Europe and the U.S., plunging countries like Italy into crisis, doctors are struggling to treat the highly infectious pathogen that’s infected over 108,000 people globally in just three months.

Understanding the course of the disease and identifying individuals at greatest risk are critical for optimizing care for a global contagion that’s killed more than 3,700 people since emerging in China in December.

Answers may lie in studying the large pool of patients in China, where more than 15,000 remain hospitalized although new infections have slowed dramatically. The disease turns critical in 6 percent of patients and deterioration can happen very quickly.

“We’ll keep an eye on old people and those with high blood pressure. They are the key focus,” said Du.

Besides the hypertension factor, Du’s other insights into treating the disease are:

Quickly ventilate

Du said that doctors should not hesitate to escalate measures for patients facing respiratory distress, as organ failure can set in quickly after. That means doctors should intervene aggressively with invasive ventilation measures — inserting a tube into a patient’s throat or cutting the throat open to create an airway — when low blood oxygen levels can’t be improved by less invasive measures.

Almost half of the patients who require invasive mechanical ventilation end up dying, but most of those who recover are those who were put on invasive ventilation early, said Du.

“Patients need to use invasive ventilation as early as possible, there’s no point of doing it late,” he said.

Respiratory therapists — doctors that specialize in ventilation and oxygen treatment — are becoming all the more important in treating patients critically ill with Covid-19 as they are more knowledgeable and can fine-tune ventilators to suit patient conditions.

No ‘magic bullets’ in drugs

There is growing anticipation over drugs being developed to treat the virus, with investors adding billions to the market value of pharmaceutical companies testing treatments now. But Du said drugs alone cannot save patients, especially those in severe condition.

The experience of SARS, the epidemic 17 years ago that sickened almost 8,000 people, showed that most patients can be cured without a specific anti-viral drug, said Du. And the abundance of antibiotics has not prevented deaths by bacterial infections, he added.

“When there’s a virus infection, we hope there’s a drug that can kill the virus and change the clinical outcome. But there’s no magic bullet.”

Instead, teamwork among specialists and nurses in intensive care units can be more crucial in keeping patients alive, he said. “An ICU doctor should work like a conductor in an orchestra to provide life-sustaining treatment while taking into consideration different specialist views,” he said.

Threat of re-infection

Reports that people who have recovered and been discharged from hospital later test positive again — and even die from the disease — have ignited fears that the virus can somehow re-emerge.

Du said that patients becoming re-infected again within days of leaving the hospital makes no sense “theoretically” as the anti-bodies in their bloodstream generated from fighting the disease do not disappear so quickly, although they don’t necessarily stay forever.

“What we need to look at in terms of those who tested positive again is concerns over the authenticity of their negative results,” he said. For example, samples taken from different areas of the same patient could test differently depending on where the virus resides.

Test kits made by different manufacturers could also have inconsistencies that impact test results, he said.

Despite their seeming physical vulnerability, pregnant women and children do not seem to be affected by the coronavirus in a serious manner, Du said. This is in contrast to other viruses like influenza.

“From what we known, infected pregnant women do not get into a serious situation with the coronavirus,” Du said. “With influenza, pregnancy is a high risk factor that can cause severe symptoms and lead to bad outcomes, but not this time.”

Children infected with the coronavirus also seem to experience only mild symptoms, said Du. He has not seen any child infections deteriorate to a state which requires intensive care.

Source: Japan Times

Exercise Habits Key to Gauging Seniors’ Longevity

Knowing how much older adults exercise can predict their odds of developing heart disease or dying early, a new study suggests.

Asking patients during atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) screening about their levels of exercise can help start treatment sooner, researchers say.

“With people now living longer, there is a growing need to determine how we can best detect latent heart disease and its associated clinical risk in older adults,” said study author Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of cardiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“Our study showed that simply asking patients to rate their level of physical activity, while using a test to look at the plaque in their coronary arteries, markedly improved our ability to predict patients’ risk for dying over their next decade of life,” he said in a Mount Sinai news release.

For the study, Rozanski’s team assessed more than 2,300 patients, ages 65 to 84, who had scans to see if their coronary arteries had blockages. Patients also were asked how much they exercised.

Over 10 years of follow-up, researchers found a link between the condition of patients’ arteries, how much they exercised, and their risk of death.

During that time, 23% of patients died, at an average rate of 2.3% per year.

The highest death rate — 2.9% per year — was among people who exercised the least. For those who exercised the most, the annual death rate was 1.7%.

People who had little or no coronary artery disease had the lowest death rates, no matter how much they exercised, researchers noted.

For patients with significant coronary artery disease, the more they exercised, the lower their odds of dying. Exercisers with the most severe clogged arteries had the same risk of death as patients with little clogged arteries who didn’t exercise much.

“Most notably, this valuable assessment of physical activity was easily obtained by asking patients just a single question about their physical activity,” Rozanski said. “This emphasizes the well-touted importance of being active. Based on our data, there is no reason why this type of assessment should not become routine in clinical practice.”

The findings were published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality and Outcomes.

Source: HealthDay

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

Most people are familiar with the obvious consequences of sleep deprivation – the heavy eyelids, short attention spans and excessive yawning after a poor night’s sleep.

But there are more consequences of meager sleep than people realize. Research shows skimping on sleep is linked to numerous health problems, including stroke, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s like with diet, every cell in the body benefits from food in some way,” said Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. “Sleep is similar in that way. The whole body (benefits).”

Just one night of sleep deprivation can lead to accumulation in the brain of the beta amyloid protein, a key component in risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2018 study. Researchers found signs of the protein in the hippocampus, which plays a major role in forming new memories and is one of the first areas affected by Alzheimer’s.

There also is evidence that lack of sleep contributes to excess body weight. One study found people who slept fewer than seven hours each night were more likely to have a higher average body mass index and develop obesity than those who slept more. Sleep restriction also was associated with salt retention and inflammatory markers.

“Sleep plays many roles and is involved in most regulatory systems in the body,” Grandner said. “This includes everything from how cells transport glucose to manage energy, to how the immune system recognizes tissue for repair.”

Sleep disorders have been recognized in recent years as health factors that can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke. A 2018 study found sleep disorders, particularly sleep apnea, are prevalent among people at risk for stroke. Another recent study found people who slept fewer than six hours a night – compared with those who slept six to nine hours – had a 20% higher risk of heart attack.

One-third of U.S. adults get less sleep than they should, which also has been linked with Type 2 diabetes and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not getting enough sleep also can cause injury and death through car crashes and workplace mistakes.

It is possible to suffer a sleep disorder without realizing it, Grandner said.

“A lot of sleep disorders are underdiagnosed and undertreated,” he said. “If you’re concerned about your sleep, it’s important to see a specialist.”

Some common sleep disorders include:

  • Insomnia – the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night
  • Sleep apnea – causes interruptions through breathing irregularities
  • Restless leg syndrome – causes “creeping” sensations and aches in the lower legs

However, inability to sleep is not always a medical problem. It could simply be a matter of poor sleep hygiene, such as bad habits that lead to later bedtimes and insufficient sleep, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, director of Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Sleep Center of Excellence.

“Maintaining good sleep hygiene and a stable schedule helps regulate cycles – not staring at a phone or computer right until you go to bed, for example,” she said. “Looking at your emails before bedtime not only shines light in your eyes that disrupt sleep signals but can also cause some stress. Thinking about the next day’s task may prevent you from falling asleep.”

Drinking coffee late in the day can be a culprit as well, she said. Life stressors can carry over into nighttime, too.

“People working multiple jobs, struggling with work-life balance sometimes struggle,” she said. “We’re also seeing that children and adolescents aren’t getting enough sleep, which is why there’s been this push to delay school start times so they can get more sleep at night.”

But for those having trouble getting proper sleep, there are ways to make improvements, Grandner said. He stressed the importance of winding down before bedtime to get the body prepared for rest, comparing the practice to slowing down a car before taking an exit off a highway.

He recommends keeping a regular sleep schedule, avoiding food too late at night, and getting out of bed to walk around if sleep is not coming immediately.

“Busy professional people are very distracted during the day, and they hope their brain is like a light switch you can turn off whenever you want to,” Grandner said. “A lot of people need to think about giving themselves enough time to wind down. They should see their sleep as an investment in the next day’s productivity and potential.”

Source: American Heart Association

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