Boy, I wish I'd had one of these over the Christmas weekend: a 3D printer that simply prints out your dinner.
A team at Cornell University's Computational Synthesis Lab (CCSL) is working on a device which would process raw food 'inks' to create a finished meal.
The device, part of Cornell's Fab@Home project, consists of a set of syringes that deposit the 'inks' layer by layer to produce a finished meal. Right now, it's limited to liquid substances including chocolate, cake batter and processed cheese, meaning that even the best chef might struggle to create a truly cordon bleu meal.
"Examples of potential future applications include cakes with complex, embedded 3D letters, such that upon slicing the cake, a message is revealed. Or, even a prime rib with a hidden message," says the team.
"Perhaps an on-demand, customizable menu in which the dish is prepared in any 3D shape that the diner desires: the diner can co-create with the culinary artist in real-time."
In practice, unfortunately, the system would likely be used to allow factories to produce 'foods' even more divorced from the real thing than Pringles.
Indeed, the team is now experimenting with some appetizing-sounding stuff known as hydrocolloids - substances that form a gel with water and are generally used as thickeners in cheap ready-made foods.
In the longer term, though, the team believes the device could liberate Americans from the gruelling 30 minutes a day that they apparently currently spend cooking. It could also allow amateurs to reproduce recipes from master chefs.
There's more information here.