Robots are making their way into the food industry--but they might not take your job with them.
A new startup company, Creator, has opened a "closed-beta" restaurant, of sorts, in downtown San Francisco. The restaurant is staffed similarly to any other fast-food joint, and it might strike you as tech-savvy that the wait staff take your order on an iPhone. But the real star of the show is two conveyor-belt style machines that autonomously assemble your burger for you.
Using ingredients stored in long clear tubes and over 300 sensors, these bots can assemble your customized burger in just minutes. The efficiency of the machine is astonishing, with an output of 120 burgers per hour. And the best part is, you lose none of the freshness you would enjoy at any made-to-order burger establishment--the machine toasts your bun to golden, slices the ingredients as they are dispensed, and grills the burgers fresh for each order.
Sure, this is really cool, but what's the benefit? It's actually manifold. As you can imagine, automation like this can reduce the amount of time it takes to get your food after you order. Because of the machine's efficiency and productivity, it also reduces the cost of food for the consumer--in fact, Creator's burger will only out you $6. Not too bad, considering that the average price of a burger in San Francisco is over $9.
Creator CEO Alex Vardakostas says that this reduction in cost allows them to use more premium ingredients in their products. "As an example, the beef is whole chunks of chuck and brisket. It’s steak, it’s pasture-raised — no antibiotics, no hormones," he explains.
To quell the fears of the robot apocalypse prophets, Creator actually still employs as many people as an average fast food place. That's because there are still humans making sides for the burgers in addition to those checking the completed burgers for problems before sending them out to the customer. There aren't yet any touchscreen kiosks like we've seen roll out to some McDonalds, but that's because the company is trying to maintain the human element of the restaurant while the automation is at work.
Believe it or not, Creator is not the only company moving into this emerging space. Eatsa, which has two locations also in San Francisco, uses humans and robots to collaboratively make quinoa bowls. Pizza company Zume is also putting robots to small tasks like kneading dough. In another interesting collaboration, Miso Robotics' (kind of adorable) Flippy robot has gone to work at Caliburger in Pasadena, cooking burgers to just the right temp using cameras and sensors:
As I wrote in a blog post earlier this year, the future of automation seems to be not replacing humans (at least on the scale once thought), but either working with them or relocating them to new jobs. It's a really exciting prospect, and with dropping prices and rising efficiency, the consumer will definitely benefit.
I'm still waiting on a robot that clean my house, though...
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