Walmart may be bringing robots to its kitchens, as it currently is testing new technology that essentially acts as a fry cook, Yahoo Finance has reported.
The new robot, named Flippy, reportedly can grill 150 hamburger patties per hour. Developed by Pasadena, Calif.-based Miso Robotics and costing between $60,000 and $100,000, the robot is being tested at Walmart's headquarters, in Bentonville, Ark.
If all goes well, the robot could be moved to delis and kitchens to take over repetitive tasks. It isn't intended only to flip burger patties, but can also act as an "autonomous arm" with the ability to perform such activities as moving chicken tenders into the correct fryer, evenly cooking them and then removing the basket from the hot oil.
Miso Robotics first developed the robot in March, aiming to augment commercial retail kitchen operations with advanced technology, Miso Robotics developed Miso AI, a cloud-connected learning platform that powers industrial robotic arms. Miso AI combines 3D, thermal and regular vision to automatically detect when raw burger patties are placed on the grill and monitors each one in real time throughout the cooking process.
Flippy isn't the first form of robotics Walmart is introducing in its stores. Last October, the mega-retailer began testing Bossa Nova, an aisle-roaming robot that scans shelves for out-of-stocks, incorrect prices, and wrong or missing labels in a small number of its stores. Also, in October, Walmart unveiled the Auto-C autonomous cleaning robot, which, like a self-driving car, uses assisted autonomy technology to clean and polish floors, freeing up associates to take care of other tasks.
At a time when the public fears robots replacing workers, Miso Robotics CEO David Zito assured Yahoo Finance that the reality is different with Flippy.
"What we want to do is assist the hardworking linemen cooks and chefs in America with tools to give them the ability to faithfully reproduce while taking the burden off some of these more repetitive and mundane tasks," he told the news outlet.
Miso Robotics says it understands the many challenges retailers face, including turnover rate and increasing demand for prepared foods.
In 2016, the team partnered with CaliBurger, Cali Group’s restaurant operating division, to develop a cost-effective and highly efficient solution leveraging their expertise in robotics and artificial intelligence. This resulted in the concept for Flippy, which was specifically designed to operate in a commercial kitchen layout and to serve alongside kitchen staff to safely and efficiently fulfill a variety of cooking tasks.