Photo courtesy of Creator

The singularity is here

Mike Pomranz
June 21, 2018

There's been plenty of hype recently around Flippy, the burger-flipping robot. Back in February, the company behind Flippy hauled in $10 million in funding to help push the technology, and yet, a month later, the robot had to be pulled for retooling just a day after its debut. (For the record, Flippy is back in action.) But now, Flippy has a new mentor to look up to: Creator, a restaurant with a robot that can make a burger almost entirely from scratch.

Creator is a new restaurant opening in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood and the name of the culinary robotics startup behind that restaurant. Launching in a limited capacity on June 27, the Creator restaurant centers around a 14-foot-long machine that constructs and cooks burgers almost entirely on its own (once it’s been loaded with all the proper ingredients). It grinds meat to order, shapes the patties, and cooks them, adds toppings and condiments to order, and even places it all on a brioche bun it didn’t bake, but did slice, itself—in five minutes. To handle all of that hard work, the machine features 20 computers, 350 sensors, and 50 actuator mechanisms. Cost of a burger: $6.

“June 27 is a big day,” founder Alex Vardakostas told Bloomberg. “When I started this process eight years ago, there wasn’t the inevitability that this would happen with food. Now not only is it inevitable, but it also produces a much higher quality product.”

Speaking of quality, all of those robotic doodads aren’t just for show: They’re used to make sure that every burger comes out perfectly. “We dispense sauce down to the milliliter. We dispense seasonings down to the gram,” Vardakostas said in an interview with TechCrunch. “There’s 11 sensors to watch the temperature of the beef, and some AI to make sure we lock in the doneness. When we grind the meat, we literally align the meat and the patty to go along with your bite kind of vertically as your incisors come through so you get a lot of advantage on the texture side of things.”

But though robotics play a major part in Creator’s business plan, Vardakostas—who grew up flipping burgers in his parents’ restaurant—says the idea isn’t to replace workers but to make their jobs better. “If I’m in a position where my job is to do something repetitive all day, how can I make a place of work where I can move from that into doing something that is either more creative or social?” he continues. “And so this place has a decent sized staff actually. We’re paying everyone $16 an hour. On top of that, we’re able to give people a 5 percent time, meaning 5 percent of the time on the clock, they’re spending that reading a book or doing something that’s going to benefit them in the long run, as opposed to what I was doing growing up [repetitively flipping burgers]. And so what I think we’re going to see is an enhancement in terms of our collective skill set—moving into things that are generally more fulfilling.” Turns out, thankfully, our new robot overlords appear to be benevolent. At least in this case.

To start, the restaurant will only be open for lunch on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and those interested in a robotic burger will have to try to grab a spot by ordering tickets online. However, come September, Creator is slated to be open to the public. Flippy will probably be first in line, dreaming of what he could have been.

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