The retailer wants to automate how its delis fry foods.
A robot named Flippy could soon join the largest workforce in the U.S.
On Monday, Yahoo Finance reported that retail giant Walmart is currently testing the robotic kitchen assistant’s ability to cook fried foods at its Culinary Institute and Innovation Center in Bentonville, Arkansas.
If those tests go well, Flippy could eventually automate the frying process at Walmart delis — meaning a robot could soon be cooking your chicken tenders and potato wedges.
Flippy The Fryer
Flippy is the work of Pasadena-based startup Miso Robotics. It uses a combination of artificial intelligence, a 6-axis robotic arm, sensors, and cameras to complete a number of kitchen tasks, everything from flipping burgers to frying various foods.
Walmart thinks the bot could potentially work behind the counter at its delis. It envisions a human employee filling fry baskets with food and placing those baskets on racks. Flippy would then identify the food in a basket and place it in the hot oil, shaking the basket to ensure the food cooked evenly.
Once the food was cooked, the robot would then move the basket to a drip rack where an employee could check its internal temperature.
This isn’t the first example of Walmart using a robot to automate tasks it considers unworthy of employees’ time. In August, the company began testing robotic carts that fill customers’ online orders, and it’s currently in the process of rolling out 360 robot janitors capable of cleaning store floors.
As was the case with those initiatives, Flippy isn’t supposed to cost any human employees their jobs — though that’s probably debatable.
“Our whole thing is not about job replacement,” Miso Robotics CEO David Zito told Yahoo Finance, adding that the company’s goal is to “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.”
Even if Flippy doesn’t replace any employees, the bot does have the potential to save Walmart at least a little money, though — after all, unlike human workers, the robot would never help itself to a chicken tender or two while behind the fryer.