Robotics Company Prepares to Take Responsibility For Displaced Workers

Momentum Machines aims to eliminate the burger boy—and retrain him to be an engineer

1 min read
Robotics Company Prepares to Take Responsibility For Displaced Workers
Photo: Momentum Machines

San Francisco’s Momentum Machines has been working for several  years to develop a robotic system that can make the perfect custom hamburger—cooking the burger, slicing and placing the toppings, even, eventually, grinding  meat to order—at the rate of 360 burgers an hour. The company’s aim is to replace the line cook at fast food restaurants. Initially, it plans to set up its own chain of restaurants; eventually, it expects to sell its burger-robot to competitors.

The company recognizes that when a restaurant brings in its system, jobs will be eliminated; it wants the men and women who lose their jobs to become engineers and work to design more automated systems. On the website, the company states: “We want to help the people who may transition to a new job as a result of our technology the best way we know how: education. Our goal is to offer discounted technical training to any former line cook of a restaurant that uses our device.  We will certainly need more engineers to design new devices and technicians to service a growing line of automated restaurant solutions. These are the minds that can do this job.”

It also is asking for ideas about other ways it can “help with the transition” as robots replace workers; to submit your thoughts, email hello@momentummachines.com.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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