A new burger-flipping robot from Miso Robotics, named Flippy, is set to replace grill masters in 50 locations of California burger joint CaliBurger within two years, the company announced this week.
“We focus on using AI and automation to solve the high pain points in restaurants and food prep,” Miso Robotics CEO and co-founder David Zito told Tech Crunch. “That’s the dull, dirty and dangerous work around the grill, the fryer and other prep work like chopping onions. The idea is to help restaurants improve food quality and safety without requiring a major kitchen redesign.”
Miso Robotics, funded in part by CaliBurger as well as by Canyon Creek Capital, Acacia Research Corporation and Match Robotics VC, uses artificial intelligence to run Flippy and plans to roll out the machine in 2018.
Designed as a wheeled cart that can be stationed in front of a grill or fryer, Flippy has a “sensor bar” equipped with thermal and 3D sensors and cameras to monitor its surroundings. A digital system sends orders back to the robot. With its six-axis robotic arm, it unwraps burger patties and moves them into grilling position, then tracks their cook time and temperature and alerts employees if toppings like cheese need to be added. It also has a collection of detachable tools to make burgers to order.
Though Flippy isn’t responsible for wrapping up or finishing topping the burgers, the robot’s introduction raises the question of how automation will replace human jobs in the food industry.
“Tasting food and creating recipes will always be the purview of a chef. And restaurants are gathering places where we go to interact with each other,” Zito said. “Humans will always play a very critical role in the hospitality side of the business given the social aspects of food. We just don’t know what the new roles will be yet in the industry.”
Cali Group CEO and CaliBurger founder John Miller lauded the cost-saving benefits of such a machine as well as the opportunity to experiment with new technology during a restaurant franchising summit in London.
“The kitchen can be entirely automated,” he said. “We really think of ourselves as a technology company that happens to sell cheeseburgers.”