As artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to advance, many Americans fear that soon their positions will be filled by robots. However, it's not just factory positions that robots are beginning to fill—food industry jobs are becoming increasingly automated as well.
The first jobs to be automated will be those of the cashiers. According to a Forbes report, fast food giant McDonald's plans to add mobile ordering and kiosks to 1,000 stores a quarter for the next seven or eight quarters. Now, however, robots are beginning to take over food preparation as well.
While this trend is beginning to make its way into our daily lives, it isn't new. A Japanese robot named Yaskawa-kun has been serving soft serve ice cream for years, as noted by Kotaku. The robot isn't the only one of its kind—ice cream robots have been popping up in other countries including Singapore, China, and Canada.
It's not just ice cream. Robots are affecting the way we experience food across the globe and in eateries that serve everything from pizza to health foods.
A downtown Boston restaurant called Spyce houses seven robotic cooking pots, as reported by the Associated Press. After the food is finished and ready to be served, the robotic pots wash themselves with water jets before a new order begins, further limiting human jobs. Spyce continues to up the tech by allowing customers to order their food on a touch-screen menu, the report noted.
Similarly, San Francisco-based restaurant company Eatsa almost exists entirely without human workers. Customers place their orders through an iPad and the food is dispensed through an automated machine.
French company Ekim has begun to cause a stir in the pizza industry by implementing a "pizzaiolo" robot that mimics the motions of human pizza pros. As Reuters reported, these robots have three arms to make more pizzas in a more efficient way.
The traditional American pizza experience is being ruptured as well. Domino's recently announced the DRU— Domino's Robotic Unit. According to Domino's, the DRU is an autonomous delivery vehicle designed to keep the pizza at an ideal temperature while navigating itself to the homes of customers.
The rise of robotic dining experiences is due to not only to developing technology, but also to hungry and busy customers who are willing to skip human interaction to get their food. For now, though, it will be a while until robots take over our entire dining experience because human labor is still much cheaper than the technology.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- The growing trend of robotics in food is starting to eliminate jobs in food service, starting with cashier jobs but moving into food preparation.
- While it is growing in popularity, robotic food service won't eliminate human workers yet due to its high cost relative to human labor.
- Quick glossary: Robotics (Tech Pro Research)
- 11 delivery robots that will soon carry food and packages to your door (ZDNet)
- 5 ways robots are vulnerable to cyberattacks (TechRepublic)
- A lot of robots touch your food before it gets to you (ZDNet)
- Why learning code won't save you from losing your job to a robot (TechRepublic)
Laurel Deppen is the 2018 summer Editorial Intern for TechRepublic. She is a student at Western Kentucky University.