Welcome to 2018: Robots are cooking hamburgers now. Fast-food chain CaliBurger is using a robot called Flippy at its Pasadena, Calif., location, KTLA reports. A human employee loads up the grill with raw burger patties, and Flippy uses thermal imaging, 3D and camera vision to detect the temperature and size of the patty as well as the temperature of the grill surface in order to know when to flip the burger and when to remove it from the grill. It also uses artificial intelligence as it cooks burgers to learn how to do it even better. A human employee adds cheese and toppings. A press release calls Flippy, which can also clean spatulas and uses separate spatulas for raw versus cooked meat, "the world’s first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant."
"The key to success in the restaurant industry is consistency. So anytime you go to a CaliBurger anywhere you know that the patty will be cooked exactly the same," says the CEO of Cali Group, the chain's parent company. The CEO of Miso Robotics, which developed Flippy and says the minimum cost of the robot is $60,000, says it's "not about replacing jobs" but about helping kitchen employees. "The kitchen of the future will always have people in it, but we see that kitchen as having people and robots," he says. Adds the Cali Burger CEO, "It's not a fun job—it’s hot, it’s greasy, it’s dirty." He tells USA Today the restaurant sees high turnover in the position for that reason. Flippy, says the Miso CEO, is simply a helpful "third hand" that doesn't mind doing that job. Flippy can grill 150 burgers per hour, NPR reports.