A robot will be cooking your food at CaliBurger

Food safety is behavior-based but what if a robot is doing the cooking for you?

Kevin Smith of Pasadena Star News reports:

CaliBurger has a new chef, but he won’t be needing a bathroom break. Or a smoking break. Or any breaks.
The “chef” is Flippy, an industrial robotic arm manufactured by Fanuc and brought to life by Miso Robotics‘ cloud-connected artificial intelligence platform. The automated kitchen assistant begins work this week at the Pasadena restaurant, and the technology is on track to be expanded to all 10 U.S.-based CaliBurger locations by the end of the year.
CaliBurger has another drive-through location in the Bakersfield area, and a Santa Clarita restaurant is opening soon.
How it works
David Zito, co-founder and CEO of Pasadena-based Miso Robotics, explained how the technology works:
“This combines thermal vision, 3D and computer vision data, and we use machine-learning algorithms,” he said. “It’s really a deep-learning technique where we can take all of that data and train Flippy to see what’s happening on the grill. He can react to it to make sure he’s cooking the burgers consistently every time.”
When a kitchen worker arranges patties on the grill, Flippy can detect where they are. The robot knows the temperature of the grill as well as the temperature of each patty, so he can turn them over at the right time and remove them from the grill when they are properly cooked, Zito said. That lets the kitchen staff know when to place cheese on top or when to dress the burgers.
The technology also enables Flippy to switch from using one spatula for raw meat to another for cooked meat. The robot can also clean spatulas while cooking and wipe the surface of the grill with a scraper, Zito said.
The process is precise, efficient, food-safe — and above all, consistent, he said.
The mind of a grill chef
“Over time, we can train Flippy to have the mind of a grill chef,” Zito said. “John has had struggles to staff the grill, and that’s an important role when you’re making the CaliBurger, their signature dish,” he said, referring to John Miller, chain chairman and CEO of the chain and related companies.
“But this is not about labor replacement. It’s about augmenting the staff that’s in the kitchen,” he added.
The robotic arms sell for $60,000 to $100,000, depending on the specific tasks a restaurant needs it to perform. Miso also charges a 20 percent fee per year for the use of its cloud-connected learning platform.
“It continually learns,” Zito said. “It gets better over time.”

The rest of the story can be found here

No, because robots don’t source food; would you feel safer with a robot behind the fast food counter?

Steven Burton of Huffington Post Canada writes that with fast food workers trying to unionize to their wages to $15 an hour, some employers are thinking less is more when it comes to staffing and plan to completely automate fast food restaurants. It seems impossible to avoid this future but with all of the outbreaks of foodborne illnesses linked to fast food in the last few years, will these innovations be safer than human prepared food or will we be risking our health more than we already do?

woody.allen.robot.sleepersThe fast food of the future will involve the customer entering their order into a virtual touchscreen interface. Prices could be a little lower as some of the payroll savings may filter down to the customer (I would not hold my breath about this though).

Once the order is entered and payment received, robotic machines in the kitchen will swing into action: cooking the food and assembling the order, bagging everything, and delivering it hot into your hungry hands.

The technology for this already exists. Burger robots from Momentum Machines have the ability to slice tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and onions right before they are placed on the burger so that they are crisper and more flavourful. The burgers are also freshly ground. The robots then wrap, bag, and send it out to the customer via conveyor to the front.

Unlike their human counterparts your order will be taken correctly every time. It will be filled quickly as these robots work at lightning speed; and because this process does not involve human contact with your food it is less likely to be contaminated. After all, machines do not have hair that can fall in the food or bacteria on their skin like Staphylococcus which can infect food. The best part is that the robot making your food will not have a cold, sneeze on your sandwich, and then wrap it up and hand it to you; as has happened to me on more than one occasion.

A potential food safety issue may arise from the robots’ inability to clean themselves. Human workers will need to be vigilant about cleaning them in order to ensure that they are free of food particles which may grow pathogens.

That tomato may be sliced fresh, but where did it come from and was contamination limited on the farm?

That’s a human decision, and the sooner restaurants and food service start exerting their buying power, the better. Source food from safe sources.

Homemade pancakes, Woody Allen and robots

When Katie Filion lived with us for a few months before setting off for graduate work in New Zealand, Amy and I would tell the 22-year-old, "‘oh, you should see this movie" – insert Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Wonderboys, or even more modern fare like Napoleon Dynamite – at which point she would politely recoil. Maybe she found our movies … old.

However, Katie did confess she now misses my homemade-from-scratch buckwheat pancakes with berries.

Have I got a movie for Katie.

Woody Allen’s 1973 classic, Sleeper, when the director was at a more, uh, slapstick stage of his career, features Allen as Miles Monroe, a jazz musician and health-food store owner living in Manhattan in 1973, who is cryogenically frozen without his consent, and not revived for 200 years. When Miles is arrested as a counterrevolutionary, he escapes by disguising himself as a robot, the kind frequently used in the future for mundane chores like cooking.

Maybe the Japanese like Woody Allen more than the French like Jerry Lewis because various prototype robo-chefs showed off their cooking skills at the International Food Machinery and Technology Expo in Tokyo last week, flipping Japanese pancakes, serving sushi and slicing vegetables.

Narito Hosomi, president of Toyo Riki, manufacturers of the pancake-cooking robot, which was apparently based on me, said,

"We all know that robots can be very useful. We want to take that utility out of the factory so that they can be used elsewhere.”

I have to agree, Katie. While clever, Sleeper is slow.