Burger-flipping robot as alternative to human workers undergoes trial

06 March 2018

The CaliBurger chain in US is trying out a new strategy to resolve the problem of not being able to retain burger flippers - a robot programmed to flip hamburgers all-day long. The $10,000-robot named Flippy, can flip as many as 2,000 burgers a day.

A human at CaliBurger's restaurant in Pasadena makes the burger patties and seasons them, and then places them in a tray for the robot. The robot then pulls them out, places them on the griddle, monitors their temperature, flips them and then takes them off the griddle to cool. A human then places them into buns for customers.

''People see a robot, they hear robot, they assume job replacement,'' says David Zito, the CEO of Miso Robotics, which created Flippy with the Cali Group, the owner of the Pasadena-based Caliburger chain, USA Today reported. ''This isn't about replacing jobs. This is about a third hand in the kitchen.''

According to commentators, whether it is burgers, cars or farming, robots are gaining the skills required for doing jobs that were once staples of employment. In late 2017, a study by the Pew Research Center showed three-quarters of US citizens said it is at least "somewhat realistic" that robots and computers will eventually perform most of the jobs currently done by people, and the survey found respondents worried about the fallout, such as income inequality.

More precisely the robot is a specialised industrial six-axis robotic arm bolted to the kitchen floor, works lunchtime shifts at the international burger chain's Pasadena, California, location. Its burger orders are routed through a digital ticketing system.

Flippy uses thermal and regular vision, and cameras, to detect when the raw meat is placed on the grill. It then monitors each burger throughout the cooking process.

According to commentators, though, people worried about robots taking over food-industry jobs can find comfort in knowing that Flippy still needs human assistance to place the patties on the grill.

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