A new burger-flipping robot is threatening to take jobs away from fast-food workers. The robot developed by Miso Robotics is called Flippy and can grill 150 patties an hour at a restaurant in Pasadena. Flippy doesn’t require a paycheck or benefits.
Flippy is a six-axis robotic arm locked into the floor. According to some reports, the robot gets orders via a digital system. Once the orders are in, a worker puts the patties on the grill. The robot then monitors the patties until they are fully cooked and then removes them. The bot is able to automatically detect when somebody places meat on it. It uses both thermal sensors and cameras to do this.
Although Flippy still needs human input to work, if this technology is deployed on a large scale it could put millions of jobs in the fast-food industry at risk. There are over 3.8 million Americans working in this industry at the moment. However, it’s not just the fast-food sector that’s embracing new technology at the expense of normal human labor.
A Harvard Study that was published in 2017 revealed that almost 40% of the total US workforce will be replaced by robots before 2030. In addition to this, it’s estimated that over the last 30 years 80% of the total manufacturing job losses were as a result of new technology. Experts predict that robots will spread beyond manufacturing. In fact, we are starting to see innovative applications of this technology in the retail space too.
However, the food industry presents various challenges that might need to be addressed. According to David Zito, Miso Robotics co-founder and CEO, food is often considered to be social and people would prefer to be served by a human as opposed to a robot. In that case, even with the advent of new technology in the industry, the human element still has an important role to play. Miso Robotics says that Flippy’s intention is not to replace humans in the food industry. The company says that Flippy is basically an extra hand designed to assist kitchen staff.
Fast-food restaurants are looking at robotics as a way to improve productivity and the entry of Silicon Valley tech startups into the food business has been growing. For example, Eatsa, a vegetarian restaurant based in San Francisco, has fully automated its ordering and pick-up. The restaurant was launched in 2015 and has since opened new restaurants in Washington, DC and New York.
Another company called Momentum Machines with $18 million in funding is planning to launch a new burger restaurant fully powered by robots. Nonetheless, the technology does not come cheap. Flippy, for example, will start selling to other restaurants in the next few months and one robot arm will cost $60, 000. Although this looks like a huge investment, the efficiency gains that the technology will bring are huge.