Archive for December, 2012

Robo-pocalypse begins with fast food industry

December 7, 2012


The fast-food industry has been a standard for go to option for the low wage worker. These days may be quickly coming to an end.  A company called Momentum Machines has designed a robotic burger maker called Burgeon designed to replace short order cooks in fast food restaurants.

This news comes at a bad time since New York’s fast-food workers began demonstration rallies and walkouts at dozens of Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants in New York City. The drive to unionize is sponsored by several civil rights groups. Campaign organizers have stated their goal is to raise wages to $15 an hour.

But the Burgeon may eliminate the need for fast-food companies to even have to begin the negotiation process. Momentum Machines have created a robotic Rube Goldberg device that they hope “will change the face of the American burger joint, one patty at a time.”


The machine is a sensible evolution of the fast-food industry. McDonalds actually championed the assembly line for their food products to decrease the wait time. The only thing that slows this process down is the human element.


Momentum Machines posts on their website: “Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better.”

Currently the alpha version of the Burgeon grinds the meat, stamps out the patty, sends it along a conveyor-belt grill, toasts the buns, squirts on the condiments, slices and drops in pickles and tomatoes and lettuce, then pops the finished burger into a bag, all in under five minutes.

Currently it can crank out a burger every 16 seconds. The company’s goal is to get that time down to 10 seconds.

The federal and State minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. For someone who works a part-time shift (20 hours a week) this is an annual income of about $8000.

These workers deserve more than the minimum wage. I would not consider that amount to be a living wage even without children to feed. But if there is a machine that can do the same job for longer and faster, then I don’t see how there would be any security in the industry for these grill slingers.

Of course a robot will never have human skills required to create a “tasty” burger. But if machines start to take jobs that have been traditionally designed for humans, which industry could be the next under threat?

My hope is that Foxcon doesn’t get an assembly bot to start creating iDevices. Because from there it is only matter of time before we have machines building machines and weall become batteries plugged into the Matrix.

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