Humans Couldn't Keep Up with This Burger-Flipping Robot, So They Fired It

The burger-flipping robotic fry cook has been temporarily "retired." Why? Because the robot's human colleagues couldn't keep up with it.

Built by Miso Robotics, Flippy, described on the company's website as "the world's first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant," was touted as a high-tech helper for fast-food restaurant kitchens in a statement announcing its unveiling in 2017. Equipped with a spatula-tipped arm, Flippy was built to operate alongside human workers and to increase efficiency in cooking and grill maintenance.

But poor Flippy faced unexpected challenges in meeting the demands of hungry restaurant patrons, and was relieved of his responsibilities after only two days on the job. [The 6 Strangest Robots Ever Created]

But it wasn't Flippy's fault. Rather, the robot's human co-workers weren't able to assemble the burgers as quickly as Flippy could grill the patties, USA Today reported.

Flippy joined the staff working the grill at a CaliBurger restaurant in Pasadena, California, on March 5, where he was tasked with flipping burgers and scooping them off the grill once they were fully cooked, Miso Robotics representatives announced in a statement released that day.

The robotic fry cook combined a jointed arm — capable of wielding a spatula or a grill scraper — with cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) and thermal vision that enabled it to tell whether a burger was raw or well-done. To ensure that all burgers were thoroughly cooked, Flippy would monitor each patty in real time, using a display screen readout to inform its human co-workers when a burger is ready for dressings and a bun.

In a video shared by Miso Robotics, Flippy's view of a grill included a thermal readout displayed in the upper-right corner, indicating which patties were ready to be flipped or served.

FLIPPY | POV from Miso Robotics on Vimeo.

Flippy wasn't intended to replace people but rather to serve as "extra hands" at the grill, Miso Robotics representatives said in the statement. 

CaliBurger prepared for Flippy's debut with a special cooking area designated as the robot's kitchen domain, including a sign that read "Flippy's Corner." But Flippy's introduction did not go as smoothly as planned, as there were not enough people working behind the counter to dress the finished burgers at the pace Flippy could make them, a CaliBurger representative told USA Today.

Miso Robotics announced in 2017 that autonomous burger-makers like Flippy would be installed in more than 50 CaliBurger locations around the world by the end of 2019. But for now, the one location willing to take a chance on a robot fry cook has temporarily turned off its spotlight. The Pasadena CaliBurger's website still urges customers to "Come see Flippy in action," though Flippy's schedule has been amended to read "to be announced."

Original article on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.