An artificially intelligent tea maker you can control using SMS

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the developer of the AppKettle, an internet-connected kitchen utility. App-controlled (as you might have guessed), and Alexa-friendly, it lets you heat a kettle remotely, and prepare for yourself the perfect cup of tea (or hot beverage of choice), wherever in the house you are. Or aren’t.

Knowing how much time and effort the developer had put into the device (which you can find on Amazon and in several bricks and mortar retailers), it didn’t occur to me that it would be practical to produce a DIY version. Especially one that didn’t use an app.

Robot tea maker

How wrong I was.

Thanks to a short segment on Channel 4’s Guy Martin vs The Robot Car, it became apparent that actually, a smart kettle isn’t out of reach for the DIYer. In the show (which you can watch on the Channel 4 website – jump to 14.40 for this feature), Guy is presented with the chance to input a few lines of Python code. This was to teach a device called R2-Tea2 (produced by Huddersfield-based interactive studio Running in the Halls) how to make him a perfect cup of tea.

Controversially, Guy Martin is a “milk first” kind of chap, which meant a bit of a rewrite to the existing code. At the heart of the device sits a Raspberry Pi 3 (a team up with an Arduino was eschewed for practicality), which is then used to display the user interface, and control the pump, stepper motor, valve, servos, and monitor the temperature of the water. Milk and water can be dispensed; while tea bags cannot only be brewed in the cup, a robot arm will also dispose of them once used!

Old nokia phone

And then there’s the SMS. Amazingly, this smart kettle solution can engage in a bit of text-based banter, as it tries to establish how strong the drinker requires their tea.

Intrigued? You should be, and you can find more about this project on the Running in the Halls website.

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