While do-gooders in Congress, state houses, or city council chambers around the country promise more money for unskilled jobs, economic reality is driving innovation and automation. In response, Miso Robotics has introduced Flippy the burger flipping robot. Equipped visual sensors and algorithms for cooking the perfect burger, Flippy is undoubtedly a sign of things to come.
Scholars have warned that demand for low-skilled jobs will drop sharply following automation and flipping burgers is definitely on the robo-overlord menu, as CaliBurger can attest. The fast-food restaurant chain present all over the United States, but also in countries like China, Sweden, Qatar or Taiwan, said it will introduce a burger robot in fifty of its locations.
The kitchen assistant, known as ‘Flippy’, was designed by a startup called Miso Robotics which specializes in “technology that assists and empowers chefs to make food consistently and perfectly, at prices everyone can afford.”
It looks like a cart on wheels with only one arm and no legs. With six axes though, the arm has plenty of freedom of motion so the robot can perform a variety of tasks. In fact, Miso claims this robot is more akin to a self-driving car than an assembly line machine.
What they mean is that Flippy uses feedback-loops that reinforce its good behavior so it gets better with each flip of the burger. Unlike an assembly line robot that needs to have everything positioned in an exact ordered pattern, Flippy’s machine learning algorithms allow it to pick uncooked burgers from a stack or flip those already on the grill. Hardware like cameras helps Flippy see and navigate its surroundings while sensors inform the robot when a burger is ready or still raw. Meanwhile, an integrated system that sends orders from the counter back to the kitchen informs Flippy just how many raw burgers it should be prepping.
Fast food chains have already begun using kiosks where customers can place their orders and pay without the help of an employee. Other fast food jobs are ripe for takeover by machines.
On a more serious note, it’s clear nobody has any idea what will happen to all these displaced jobs. Tech startups are in a competition to be as disruptive as possible with not much regard for what happens next to the industry they’re affecting. Quite frankly, that might not be their responsibility. Nobody had any beef with Henry Ford when he flooded the market with millions of Model-Ts, pulling horse and buggies out of the streets.
Minimum wage hikes in some cities have already resulted in higher prices and fewer available jobs. Flippy requires no wage at all and no benefits. It will require a higher skilled employee to operate and maintain it though. The smart money will be on developing a labor force with automation related skills and not on arbitrarily mandating higher wages for jobs that are headed for obsolescence.