Hackaday Prize Entry: Detecting Adulterated Food Using AI

Adulterated food is food that has a substance added to it to save on manufacturing costs. It can have a negative effect, it can reduce the food’s potency or it can have no effect at all. In many cases it’s done illegally. It’s also a widespread problem, one which [G. Vignesh] has decided to take on as his entry for the 2017 Hackaday Prize, an AI Based Adulteration Detector.

On his hackaday.io Project Details page he outlines some existing methods for testing food, some which you can do at home: adulterated sugar may have chalk added to it, so put it in water and the sugar will dissolve while the chalk will not. His approach is to instead take high-definition photos of the food and, on a Raspberry Pi, apply filters to them to reveal various properties such as density, size, color, texture and so on. He also mentions doing image analysis using a deep learning neural network. This project touches us all and we’ll be watching it with interest.

If all this talk of adulterated food makes you nervous about your food supply then consider growing our own, hacker style. One such project we’ve seen here on Hackaday is Farmbot, an open-source CNC farming robot. Another such is MIT’s OpenAg Food Computer, a robotic control and monitoring growing chamber.

3D Printing Gets Cheesy

Has it ever crossed your mind that everything you see for sale–no matter how mundane–is someone’s life passion? Or, at least, their work passion. Somewhere as we speak two or three people are in a room trying to figure out how to make a whoopie cushion for two cents less than before. Someone is touting the virtues of the newest design in egg cartons. The guys that make the tube that carries your money to the bank teller at the drive through window? They exist, too.

It is natural for us to think about improving 3D printers but most of us print plastic. We might wish we could print metal. But researchers in a few places are printing cheese. We didn’t say hackers with the muchies, we said researchers. There’s a colorful slide show from the University College Cork in Ireland, for example. They printed cheese at two different speeds and used a laser scanning microscope and a rheometer to analyze the results. We’ve seen rheometers in plastic factories, but never in the kitchen. Meanwhile on the hacker front, apparently spray cheese cans work as an easy cold extruder (see video below).

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Growing Plants on Mars… on Earth

One of the biggest challenges of traveling to Mars is that it’s far away. That might seem obvious, but that comes with its own set of problems when compared to traveling to something relatively close like the Moon. The core issue is weight, and this becomes a big deal when you have to feed several astronauts for months or years. If food could be grown on Mars, however, this would make the trip easier to make. This is exactly the problem that [Clinton] is working on with his Martian terrarium, or “marsarium”.

The first task was to obtain some soil that would be a good analog of Martian soil. Obtaining the real thing was out of the question, as was getting similar dirt from Hawaii. [Clinton] decided to make his own by mixing various compounds from the hardware store in the appropriate amounts. From there he turned to creating the enclosure and filling it with the appropriate atmosphere. Various gas canisters controlled by gas solenoid valves mixed up the analog to Martian atmosphere: 96% dioxide, 2% argon, and 2% nitrogen. The entire experiment was controlled by an Intel Edison with custom circuits for all of the sensors and regulating equipment. Check out the appropriately dramatic video of the process after the break.

While the fern that [Clinton] planted did survive the 30-day experiment in the marsarium, it wasn’t doing too well. There’s an apparent lack of nitrogen in Martian soil which is crucial for plants to survive. Normally this is accomplished when another life form “fixes” nitrogen to the soil, but Mars probably doesn’t have any of that. Future experiments would need something that could do this for the other plants, but [Clinton] notes that he’ll need a larger marsarium for that. And, if you’re not interested in plants or Mars, there are some other interesting ramifications of nitrogen-fixing as well.

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Laser-Cut Gingerbread Trailer Home

Ah, the holiday gingerbread house. A traditional — if tedious — treat; tasking to create, delicious to dismantle, so why not try applying some maker skills to making the job of building it easier? [William Osman] decided to try two unorthodox approaches to the gingerbread construct; first, he opted to build a gingerbread mobile home. Secondly, he cut the pieces out with a laser cutter.

After the tumultuous task of baking the gingerbread sheets, [Osman] modeled the trailer in SolidWorks and set to work cutting it out on his home-built, 80W laser cutter. Twice. Be sure to double check the home position on any laser cutting you do, lest you ruin your materials. Also — though this might be especially difficult when modelling food in any CAD programs — be sure to account for the thickness of your materials, otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of trimming on your hands. At least gingerbread cuts easily.

Hot glue and royal frosting secured the pieces together — as well as some improvisation of the final details — making for a picture perfect holiday scene — from a certain point of view.

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OpenAg Is A Personal Food Computer

When a device that calls itself a personal food computer lands in your timeline, what image springs to mind? A cloud-connected diet aid perhaps, advertised on TV infomercials by improbably fit-looking Californian ladies crediting all their health to a palm-sized unit that can be yours for only 199 dollars. Fortunately that proved not to be the case, and on further reading our timeline story was revealed to be about a computerized farming device.

The OpenAg Food Computer  from the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative bills itself as:

“a controlled-environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber”

It takes the form of a tabletop enclosure in which so-called climate recipes to replicate different conditions for plant growth can be tested. It’s probably fair to say that in this most basic form it is more of an educational device than one for full-scale food production, though they are applying the same technologies at a much greater scale. Their so-called “Food servers” are banks of OpenAg environments in freight containers, which definitely could be used to provide viable quantities of produce.

The good news is that the project is open source, and their latest story is that they have released version 2.0(alpha) of the device. If you are interested, you can read the documentation, and find all the resources you need to build one on their GitHub repository. They page linked above has a video that’s very much of the slick PR variety rather than the nuts-and-bolts, so we’ve sought out their build video for you below the break instead. Continue reading “OpenAg Is A Personal Food Computer”

Insanely Hot Oven Makes Pizza in 45 Seconds: Avidan Ross on Food Hacking

In the future, nobody will have to cook for themselves: the robots will take care of it all for us. And fast! At least if folks like [Avidan Ross] have their way. He gave a talk on his 45-second pizza robot, and other DIY food automations, at the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference, and you’re invited to pretend that you were there by watching this video.

Why would you want to build machines to build food? It’s a serious challenge, and there’s always going to be room to improve and new frontiers to cross. There’s immediate feedback: [Avidan] gets to taste and tweak in a quick feedback cycle. And finally, everybody eats, so it’s not hard to find “test subjects” for his work.

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Sandwich Robot Keeps You Fed So You Can Keep Hacking

Food. A necessary — often delicious — interruption of whatever project you’re currently hacking away at. Ordering takeout gets expensive and it’s generally unhealthy to subsist solely on pizza. With the Sandwich-O-Matic, a simple voice command fulfills this biological need with minimal disturbance of your build time.

Built for a thirty-six hour hackathon, the Sandwich-O-Matic is controlled by a Photon and an Arduino. The backend is running node, hosted on AWS, and Google Cloud was used for voice to text recognition. This thing is a fully automated and voice controlled sandwich building station. A DC motor services the toaster, while the rest of the device is actuated by servos. Simply tap the ‘begin recording’ button on the site, tell it your ingredient choices, and off it goes.

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