Combining two of Japan's greatest strengths, a noodle-shop-owning electronics wizard has invented a robot that can make the perfect bowl of ramen.
It took the 60-year-old shop owner Yoshihira Uchida about 20 million yen and five years to develop the ramenbot. Now customers of his shop, Momozono Robot Ramen, in Minami-Alps, a town 90 miles from Tokyo, can customize their broth, adjusting everything from the levels of soy sauce and salt to the richness of the soup. There are reputedly 40 million different possible flavor permutations.
The custom-made broth is then delivered via conveyor belt to the chef, who adds noodles and toppings -- a process that Uchida hopes to cede to the robot soon as well. The whole process takes two minutes, less time than it would take to boil water for instant noodles.
The ramenbot found its perfect creator in Uchida: he has a background in electronics -- he worked for his entire career on noodle-packing machines at a food manufacturing plant until his retirement last year -- and also has had an enduring love for noodles. Ten years ago he opened a noodle shop and, after finding himself unable to satisfy all of his customers, hit upon the idea of the ramenbot.
An iron foundry custom-built parts for the bot, and customers helped him do taste-tests. After many snags -- such as computer crashes from spilled soup -- the ramenbot made its debut in his shop. Now he wants to send an army of his bots to conquer the world, one perfect bowl of ramen at a time.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.