Fast food is one of the fastest growing areas of employment in the U.S. According to USA Today, jobs in fast food rose 40 percent from 2007 to 2017 and reached 4.9 million. But now that could all change because a burger chain based in California is looking to replace its burger flippers with a robot named “Flippy,” whose sole purpose it to grill the perfect burger.
Fifty CaliBurger locations have begun introducing the newest robotic employee. The Pasadena CaliBurger is the first location to install Flippy and other locations are planning to do the same soon.
Flippy was produced by Miso Robotics and uses image recognition and heat-sensing technology to detect which burgers need to be flipped and when. The robot can grill up to 12 burgers at once and prepare up to 2,000 burgers each day, USA Today reported.
CaliBurger’s Chief Executive John Miller told the BBC that it is “very possible” restaurants will have less employees in the future thanks to robots such as Flippy.
“[Flipping burgers] is not a very fun job, right?” Miller told BBC. “It’s hot. It’s greasy. It’s dirty. It hurts your wrist. So people come in and we train them, which is a significant expense. They work for a few weeks and then they leave. So the robotics systems make a perfectly consistent burger across all our restaurants everywhere in the world.”
Flippy costs $60,000 minimum and is about $12,000 a year to run and maintain, according to KTLA.
However, Flippy is not immune to error. In fact, the machine frequently makes simple mistakes that a trained worker would not, according to the BBC. David Zito, co-founder and CEO of Miso Robotics, told NPR that these errors would soon be fixed.
“Much like self-driving vehicles, our system continuously learns from its experiences to improve over time,” Zito told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
So are robots taking over? Are we getting closer and closer to a Terminator-like Judgment Day? Zito doesn’t think so.
“People see a robot, they hear robot, they assume job replacement,” Zito told USA Today. “This isn’t about replacing jobs. This is about a third hand in the kitchen.”