The robot takeover may have hit a snag: The machine that was said to be one of the most formidable opponents of the human workforce has turned out to be somewhat underqualified for the job. Flippy, the name of the robot that chain CaliBurger purchased to flip burgers at its locations, has gone on an “extended break” after working one regular shift behind the grill.
It made its big debut earlier this week as one of the 50 Flippys that the chain plans to install nationwide in coming months. CaliBurger and the machine’s maker Miso Robotics both insist this is “the future of food,” and they’re quick to explain Flippy is actually a boon to food-service workers — it’s there to aid, not replace, them. The large automated arm purportedly uses cameras and thermal scanners to “work with” and “learn from” its human co-workers, so that “together” the team can make faster, more perfect food.
In reality, things worked out a little differently: USA Today reports that after word got out about Flippy, the public descended upon Pasadena’s CaliBurger. Soon, the poor bot was operating well beyond its 2,000-burger-a-day capacity, and the chain decided to pull its plug (figuratively, but also probably literally?) and run some upgrades.
Alas, human staff were apparently part of the problem, too. CaliBurger’s chief technology officer, Anthony Lomelino, says the issue was mostly timing: “Working with people, you talk to each other. With Flippy, you kind of need to work around his schedule.” While Flippy catches some R & R, CaliBurger will retrain cooks to be better team players. In the meantime, the device is just powered down at its station, which now has a sign that says Flippy will be grilling patties again “soon.”