Good news if you’re worried about a robot taking your job: it turns out even mechanical laborers need a break.
Only a single shift into its career at the CaliBurger restaurant in Pasadena, California, this week, Flippy the robot burger-flipper is going on hiatus, reports USA Today. The bot, created by startup Miso Robotics, made its debut earlier this week assisting in CaliBurger’s kitchen by flipping patties on the grill. According to reports, the robot did its job well but was such a hit with customers that Miso Robotics is giving Flippy time off over the weekend for some upgrades.
According to Miso spokeswoman Stephanie Cirigliano, the company needs to perform tests on the robot “to make sure the location can fulfill a large number of orders.” Cirigliano told USA Today that it will put Flippy back on burger duty next week, but it’ll only be for a limited time each day (between 11AM and 2PM to help cover the lunchtime shift).
Flippy is more of an automaton than a human replacement. It’s essentially an industrial robot arm with a spatula attached that uses machine vision to locate burgers on the grill, time how long they’ve been cooking, and flip them when needed. Human workers still have to do everything else — including placing cheese on the burger, assembling the food, and taking a customer’s order. Flippy is primarily earning its keep as a visitor attraction, just like those Chinese restaurants that use robot waiters.
Despite these gimmicks, it seems robots are slowly finding their place in new occupations. CaliBurger plans to install Flippy in 50 locations around the US, and Miso Robotics is only one of a number of startups using the latest tech to automate the food industry. Startup Momentum Machines has raised $18 million to take its burger robot into fast-food joints, and other companies are building machines that make pizzas and salads.
The fact that even a basic bot like Flippy needs a lot of tinkering to adapt to life in the kitchen shows that integrating robots into human jobs is tougher than it looks. But, it’s still happening — one burger at a time.