You have just arrived at work on a grey Tuesday morning.
Morning Flippy, you say, taking off your coat. Oof, it’s cold this morning, isn’t it? I thought we were over it after before … you know, the storm what's-it-called? But it’s still pretty chilly, huh?
Flippy doesn’t reply. He continues methodically turning the burgers.
Is there … Is there something wrong, Flippy? The burger fat sizzles on the fryer. I don’t know, I know it’s pretty early in the morning, but I think it’s nice to have a little chat sometimes? Just to check in, just to speak to one another, employee to employee, person to person, soul to soul. To break through the dehumanising environment of the workplace, to let you know that I *see* you, and you’re not just another cog in the giant capitalist machine, you’re … you’re … you’re, “Flippy.”
The workplace will never be the same again because Flippy, a robot designed to flip burgers, has just started on the job.
The machine, which has a starting cost of $60,000 (around £43,000), has been installed in the kitchens of Californian fast food restaurant Caliburger to cook beef burgers. According to USA Today, Flippy was developed in partnership with American AI company Miso Robotics after the burger chain had a problem with staff quitting.
Although the hospitality robot launched a year ago, this is the first time it has been used in a commercial restaurant. Using image-recognition and heat-sensitive technology, Flippy is able to place burgers on the hot plate, monitor their temperature, and flip 12 of them at a time, up to 2,000 times per day. After Flippy's test run at a Caliburger location in Pasadena this week, the technology will now be rolled out to 50 of the chain's other restaurants across the state.
Although automation of jobs is usually seen as a threat to actual human employees, CEO of Miso Robotics, David Zito, told USA Today this shouldn’t be a worry with Flippy. “People see a robot, they hear robot, they assume job replacement,” Zito explained. “This isn’t about replacing jobs. This is about a third hand in the kitchen.”
However, John Miller, the executive director of Cali Group, the organisation that owns the Caliburger restaurants, told the BBC that “there will be a change in the way that workers are hired.”
“Does that mean a typical restaurant in the future might have fewer human employees that it does now?” he continued in the video, “I think that is very possible.”
Is it time to panic yet?