Burger flipping robot now stands on its head

The days of the line cook are numbered thanks to this robotic chef.

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The creator of a robotic arm designed to cook burgers and other quick-serve food at high turnover restaurants has a bright idea: Why not turn the robot upside down? Introducing Flippy 2.0, a robotic fry cook and kitchen assistant that's on its way to transforming fast food.

Flippy is a lightweight industrial robotic arm with a spatula for an end effector bundled with a sensor suite and smart AI that helps it get better the more it cooks. The robot started its professional career flipping burgers at CaliBurger, but it may soon be moving up to other foods, thanks in part to a new prototype from Miso Robotics.

Dubbed the Miso Robot on a Rail (ROAR), the new design responds to a difficult challenge for those hoping to bring automation into existing kitchens. Namely, there isn't much space around the stove or griddle, and human coworkers tend to need whatever space there is to maneuver. 

Miso's engineers figured out a space-saving solution via an upside down rail installed under a standard kitchen hood. The new design allows Flippy to move laterally across a work area while keeping all the equipment out of the way of human coworkers.

That ability to move side to side is important given Flippy's expanding repertoire. Beefed up software has expanded the food categories that Flippy can handle. The newest version will be able to cook several new items, including over a dozen types of fried food like chicken wings, onion rings, popcorn shrimp, sweet potato waffle fries, corn dogs, and more.

"We're excited to continue to develop the capabilities of Flippy and create even more value for our clients," stated Buck Jordan, CEO of Miso Robotics. "By the end of the year, Flippy ROAR will give our customers the opportunity to own a zero-footprint, low cost product as they adjust to a quickly changing industry."

Elsewhere in the quick serve industry, automation has met with a bit of turbulence. This month, Zume, previously the hottest fast food automation startup on the block with a valuation in the billions as of late 2019, announced it was changing focus from robotic pizza prep and delivery and moving instead toward food packaging and automation solutions for other companies. The transition came with a 50 percent reduction in Zume's workforce.

Miso has been scaling more deliberately by focusing on a single core solution, and there's good reason to think it has a fighting chance of making inroads in the quick serve market, where rising minimum wages and chronic employee turnover are affecting bottom lines

Miso Robotics anticipates ROAR will be commercially available by the end of 2020. The company says the updates will ultimately allow Miso to create a zero-footprint product, lowering the cost of automated kitchen equipment and offering true end-to-end automated cooking services.