Machines are learning more than just complex tasks—they’re learning to make complex decisions.
The days of wondering when robots will be “working” in bars and restaurants are gone: the robots are here, and they’re ready to play their role in the commercial kitchen of the future.
Take, for example, a robot called Flippy. This robotic arm is manufactured by Miso Robotics. Among its “skills”? Flippy can pick up baskets, set them into the fryer, agitate and monitor the baskets, and pick them up. And that’s just what it was capable of a couple of months ago.
Possibly the real “talent” possessed by Flippy is its ability to learn. Flippy sees the food and tools with which its working. That means it identifies ingredients, knows how to prepare them, and knows how to identify and use the tools required. As far as health and safety compliance, Flippy “knows” to switch tools. And yes, Flippy can clean the equipment its using.
Flippy can train on new products and obtain, within one week, 99 percent accuracy in making it. It only takes about a second for Flippy to make calculations when interacting with food. The robot is also constantly “trying” to improve its efficiency in completing each task. It accomplishes this by playing a game in its “mind.”
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Flippy awards itself points based on the tasks it completes. Doing so is one way this machine is learning to make complex decisions. The game helps Flippy analyze its efficiency and, if it recognizes there’s an alternate path to improving its score, change its “plan.” That’s right—this robot not only learns, it can make a complex decision: it can alter plans to be more efficient.
Of course, being a machine, Flippy can be integrated into an operation’s systems. That gives the robot the ability to communicate with coworkers, be they human or another robot arm. As of just a couple months ago, Flippy navigated the tools it needed to use via QR codes. However, Melissa Burghardt, COO of Miso Robotics, explained that the company is teaching the robot arm to navigate without QR markers. Flippy can also be managed remotely.
Burghardt also explained that the motivation behind creating and teaching Flippy was to build an autonomous cooking platform that allows chefs to fully realize their culinary potential. Rather than having chefs and other back-of-house team members flipping burgers and preparing fries, Flippy can do that. Presumably, this cuts down on labor and lets humans tackle higher-level kitchen tasks.
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Flippy, according to Burghardt, learns an operator’s specific recipes. This means the robot prepares recipes how the operator wishes. Because Flippy learns, the robot can adapt with operators as they adapt to the times and consumer tastes.
As far as Burghardt and Miso Robotics’ vision for Flippy, the kitchen of the future should help chefs realize their vision all the time and help scale recipe and product innovations and changes. This reallocation of tasks can mean saving money in one role to invest more in another.
Flippy is here, and that means more robots will be coming to commercial kitchens soon.