By 2018, fast food chain CaliBurger will employ robot chefs to cook and flip burgers at some of its locations. The restaurant chain will expand its robotic staff to 50 different locations around the world within a year after employing its first robot cook, the company announced.
Miso Robotics, a startup based in Pasadena, California, is building the kitchen assistant for CaliBurger. The burger bot, whose name is "Flippy," can manage a grill and be programmed to cook burgers "perfectly" and "consistently," Miso says on its site. Slowly, the bot will learn other tasks and take over chopping vegetables and using the fryer.
Miso recently raised $3.1 million in a Series A venture capital round. Patent services firm Acacia Research, Match Robotics VC, and CaliBurger have invested in Miso and its kitchen assistant robot.
Flippy, which is equipped with Miso's artificial intelligence and computer vision software, has a robotic arm and a hand-like apparatus that closes around a burger and flips the patty. Flippy is packed with cameras and thermal and 3D sensors that give the bot the ability to "see" and track food on the grill and manage the cook time. Once the burger is fully cooked, Flippy removes the burger and places it on a bun. For the time being, Flippy cannot add cheese or toppings to a patty, so the robot will tell the human assistant chef to finish the job. Flippy is also equipped with machine learning technology, which means Flippy will learn new tasks once it masters the burger.
David Zito, CEO at Miso Robotics, tells CNBC that the company focused on a robotic fast food chef because those positions have the highest turnover rates in the industry. Other companies are also leveraging robotics to reduce costs and reduce employee count, including, Chowbotics, which makes a salad bot, Frobot, which makes a robotic frozen yogurt maker, and Zume Pizza, which uses the Doughbot.
Robots like Flippy could help restaurants lower costs on human labor, but the affect automation will have on human employment could be significant. According to a report from the World Economic Forum last year, robotics and automation will eliminate 7 million jobs in the next five years. These technologies will add 2 million new jobs to the world's workforce, but 5 million jobs will disappear with no replacement, the report says.