It's like a scene straight out of The Jetsons: a robotic arm, gently flipping burger patties and turning buns with exact precision. Except only this time, it's not a cartoon, it's real life and it's happening right now at a Pasadena-based burger chain called CaliBurger.
Enter FLIPPY, an artificially intelligent grill master that was developed by another Pasadena-based company, Miso Robotics and the CaliBurger's parent company Cali Group. FLIPPY is a "robotic kitchen assistant" that works along side humans, and is now the newest CaliBurger team member, according to TechCrunch.
FLIPPY uses cameras to detect the different types of meat, along with cooking temperature and time, buns, and even the hands of a fellow coworker. Engadget reported that by using sensors it can use and "deep learning software to locate ingredients in a kitchen without needing to reconfigure existing equipment," FLIPPY can alert humans when cooking tasks are completed so the toppings can be added to orders.
In a world dominated by mobile food delivery, the fast-food industry has already seen a big shift into automation — which restaurant owners can use as a profitable advantage — considering potential minimum wage rate increases and the aspect of more quick-serve restaurants transitioning to a more personal dining room service.
CaliBurger is already looking into the future of fast-food automation, but according to John Miller, Chairman of CaliGroup, FLIPPY won't be replacing employees anytime soon.
"The application of artificial intelligence to robotic systems that work next to our employees in CaliBurger restaurants will allow us to make food faster, safer, and with fewer errors," Miller told Nation's Restaurant News.
For now, FLIPPY is under a probationary period at CaliBurger but the chain plans to roll out additional versions of Flippy to 50 CaliBurger locations in the next few years.
While it may not seem obvious at first, CaliBurger made headlines before. In 2012, the CaliBurger was sued by In-N-Out for, "trademark infringement and counterfeiting," when it used similar imagery and the phrase, "Animal Style" on menus in a Shanghai location according to the Los Angeles Times.