Miso Robotics is one of the many firms trying to automate food preparation, and today, it announced that its latest machine — which places its burger-flipping bot Flippy on rails to move it about the kitchen more easily — is now on sale globally.
Prices for the contraption (known as Flippy Robot-on-a-Rail or Flippy ROAR) start at “around $30,000,” according to VentureBeat, though Miso Robotics reportedly wants to bring the cost down to $20,000 over the next year. The company is also offering the option to hire Flippy ROAR for $1,000 a month, a fee which includes maintenance and upgrades.
Like Flippy before it, Flippy ROAR is designed to automate simple food prep, specifically anything involving fryers and grills. The robot uses machine learning to identify foodstuff and a camera array (which includes a 3D depth-sensing cam from Intel and a thermal camera) to navigate its environment. A robotic arm then wields a spatula and grabs baskets full of food to fry.
Flippy ROAR can now cook 19 food items in total, says Miso Robotics, and it’s able to flip both burgers and the plant-based Impossible Burger. It can also perform basic grill maintenance like scraping off burnt crud and removing excess oil. The robot’s AI systems have now been trained to identify a wider range of fry items, and it can now dunk more things into hot oil than ever before. That list includes chicken tenders, chicken wings, popcorn shrimp, french fries, tater tots, potato wedges, hash browns, onion rings, and waffle fries.
The real upgrade, though, is Flippy ROAR’s rail-based navigation system, which lets it slide about from a hopper of frozen items to the grill and fryer. The overhead rail has the effect of “keeping [the robot] out of the path of busy kitchen staff to increase safety and throughput,” says Miso Robotics, though the company doesn’t mention the price or ease of installation of the rail system. Miso Robotics also says it’s upgraded the robot’s software, which kitchen staff use to control the machine’s operations via a 15.6-inch touchscreen.
According to VentureBeat, Flippy ROAR will “soon” be operational in 50 CaliBurger locations. In July, Miso Robotics also announced it would be installing robots in White Castle locations as part of a pilot program.
Although robots like Flippy ROAR are often presented as productivity-enhancing devices that allow humans to focus on more specialized tasks (like customer service), their implementation can also make work harder for their flesh-and-blood colleagues. A recent report on automation within Amazon’s warehouses found that while the introduction of robots did increase productivity, it did so at the expense of human workers who received more injuries as they struggled to keep up with the machines.