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article imageOp-Ed: Robo-burgers to go? The very mixed message robot burgermeister

By Paul Wallis     Jul 3, 2017 in Food
San Francisco - A fully functional commercial burger making robot will trash fast food industry employment. Particularly if you have a robot that can do 400 burgers an hour.
The company that invented the machines is called Momentum Machines. The company, in fairness, says that the robots could create jobs by freeing up employees to do better jobs. They may even believe that. The robots are supposed to start work in a restaurant in San Francisco, Momentum Machines' home town at "680 Folsom", according to Business Insider, which also wasn't very specific about dates.
I really do have to say, the design of the robots is good, and obviously the result of some serious thoroughness in analysing the entire process of making burgers. If they made a miniature for home use, I’d buy it.
The machines are built and designed like assembly lines. They’re on a frame, with feeds to deliver the food for processing. It’s all the way from making to bagging. Great bit of single unit/whole of process design, in fact.
That good design, however, isn’t the issue. If pretty advanced, and able to actually make multi-layer burgers which do look pretty good, and competently made, there are some real possible problems.
The fact is that burger-cooking robots are totally new in the marketplace. Nobody knows if they’ll be a major money spinner, or a great way of distributing contaminated foods that humans would notice and robots wouldn’t.
Robots can do processes. That’s it. Robots can’t smell. Or discriminate between salmonella and salmon pate. See any possible problems, guys? Admittedly human staff will still be required for customer contact, but that's a bit iffy, too, given that other restaurants in SF already do "minimal human contact" business models. It's doubtful that most fast food staff can do actual analysis of food quality, too.
The robots are estimated to be able to save nearly $100K per year in wages, etc. Even people making “$insult an hour” wages can’t deliver that sort of money to restaurants. You can assume that the robots will be installed ASAP. If 10 robots = $1 million per year, it’s game over for the fast food guys.
These robots represent a challenge to the economy which is probably THE litmus test for robotics in future. When automation arrives, jobs go and never come back. Manual labour was replaced by machines, and now, in some sort of Karmic way, machines are replacing people entirely. If you remember the old days of word processing, typing pools and stenographers, those jobs, millions of them, vanished in the blink of a dismissal slip when PCs came in.
The burger machines aren’t even the problem. It’s the idiot logic that assumes putting people out of work is a good idea that’s the problem. A whole ecology of underpaid people, destroyed? Pity of it is, they’re likely to be economically destroyed, too. So is Main Street, yet again. Keep an eye on these machines, and see how whatever hits the fan splatters.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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