New kitchen robot Flippy set to transform fast food

The Flippy robot is designed to automate flipping fast-food burgers. Image courtesy of Miso Robotics.
The Flippy robot is designed to automate flipping fast-food burgers. Image courtesy of Miso Robotics.

A new robot called 'Flippy' designed for use in fast-food kitchens has been shown off this week by US-based company Miso Robotics.

Designed in collaboration with fast food company Cali Group, Flippy autonomously cooks and flips burger patties.

Once the robot determines the burgers are sufficiently cooked, it is then also able to use a robotic arm to place them accurately on buns before they are served to the customer.

The robot, which is slightly taller than a human, yet takes up approximately the same amount of floor space, makes use of a number of advanced systems in order to function.

Most notable of these is a series of cameras paired with a computer vision system which enables Flippy to see different objects on the grill and determine if they are cooked. As well, it can also ‘see’ humans working on the same grill and adapt its movements to avoid them.

Powering this is a machine learning AI algorithm which can increase in capability over time.

“Much like self-driving vehicles, our system continuously learns from its experiences to improve over time,” said David Zito, CEO of Miso Robotics.

The robot itself was designed from the ground up to integrate seamlessly into Cali Group’s CaliBurger restaurant kitchens.

While initial trials of the robot are only beginning, Miso Robotics plans to roll out Flippy in 2018, and have it operating in at least 50 CaliBurger restaurants globally by 2019.

Flipping burgers, however, is only the beginning of what Miso Robotics sees as a whole range of different kitchen tasks which can be automated.

“Though we are starting with the relatively ‘simple’ task of cooking burgers, our proprietary AI software allows our kitchen assistants to be adaptable and therefore can be trained to help with almost any dull, dirty or dangerous task in a commercial kitchen — whether it’s frying chicken, cutting vegetables or final plating,” Zito said.

Miso Robotics says it focusses on automating the fast-food industry due to the high amount of “inefficiencies” that it has, such as high worker turnover.

While the company says that Flippy will enable restaurants to repurpose their workers, in many cases this will inevitably lead to layoffs.

With hundreds of thousands around the world employed in this industry, it represents yet one more area of the economy which will see large-scale automation-based job losses into the coming decade.