If you’ve never heard of Robot Operating System 2.0 then you’re probably behind the curve on getting a good place in line to mine the miners, so to speak, in the fast food industry. ROS2 is Robot Operating System 2.0 and it’s not actually an operating system as such but more of framework of tools designed to make robot-based automation easier and faster to develop. The reader is warned that this could get a little technical in places and you’re invited to put on your mental running shoes.
So far the actual machinery finding its way into the fast food industry is quite robust but it’s been largely just back porting machinery into a physical layout designed for humans to operate in. That’s not scalable and won’t be how things will go. It makes exactly zero sense to thoroughly automate a McDonald’s using an existing McDonald’s with all the walk ways and OSHA compliant layouts and since every McDonald’s has subtly different internal measurements in the building you couldn’t mass produce a robotic back-of-store automation platform. Worse yet, McDonald’s makes burgers and fries but if you want to make robots that will change the industry then you need the robots themselves to come in a standard footprint. When you start looking at the footprint that’s needed as you eliminate the humans from the mix you end up with something more like a kiosk or a vending machine. In order to make the vending machine platform viable, you need software to run it.
Software for robots is non-trivial. It’s not a problem for simple/stupid robots but those robots are dangerous to the public. For well designed robots that can do their job long term without constant human interference or man-in-the-middle operational requirements and without major risk to the user/public you need robust software that utilizes gobs of real-time sensors and it’s going to need governmental safety certifications. As soon as you do that, you’ve opened a complexity door which makes Pandora’s box look like a quibbling triviality with no impact on the future.
The solution that’ll need to be used is ROS2 (Robot Operating System 2) which is as stated before more of a framework of tools designed to make robot-based automation easier and faster to develop than an operating system and which is pretty darned complicated as it operates at very low levels. Programming robots of any complexity versus enabling your standard self-opening door to open before someone bumps their nose on it is akin to writing a complex software package in assembly language versus just using a physical tripwire. The complexity is huge and it requires a specialized skill set, even in the realms of technology and programming it’s a special skill set still.
Think of how you tell a computer to do anything with software code. Traditionally in the low complexity software world of something like a Windows or Mac computer, if you want to tell it to hide the cursor while you type, you write code which is more or less of the form:
The computer code libraries that have already been built and which are hugely more complicated are called by that simple text string and the computer hides the cursor while you type.
Robots use physical things and digital data about those things pulled in from lots of sensors is used to provide guardrails to those actions. You have to describe how the robot is supposed to actually work before you can even use it. In ROS2 if you wanted to describe to the software a gripper joint that was capable of picking something up it’d be something like like the below.
1 <joint name="left_gripper_joint" type="revolute"> 2 <axis xyz="0 0 1"/> 3 <limit effort="1000.0" lower="0.0" upper="0.548" velocity="0.5"/> 4 <origin rpy="0 0 0" xyz="0.2 0.01 0"/> 5 <parent link="gripper_pole"/> 6 <child link="left_gripper"/> 7 </joint>
You have a world full of people who are able to do the [NSCursor hide]; sort of software development but not nearly as many that are able to work in something as low level as ROS2. The only thing that’s stopped McDonald’s from crushing their buildings and going with a fully automated kiosk footprint is staffing for the robotics companies that are going to end up building the machines that make the food. Up until recently there’s not been the kind of traction in automation that there is now. Fairly recently universities have started cranking out ROS2 capable engineers, if not in industrial scale then at least in sufficient quantity to allow the fast food industry to actually get on with changing to the hyper-converged ultra efficient model that it’s capable of becoming.
Soon enough you’ll see old fast food joints being literally demolished and rebuilt in such a way as to be able to take advantage of end-to-end automation built from the ground up to automate the fast food industry. You won’t recognize anything about what emerges to take the place of that old standard American designed drive-thru. The needs for maintenance will change very much from physical maintenance/repair of broken widgets to digital maintenance and electronic calibration. Where old kitchens used to be dominated by empty space, the kitchen of the fast food future will look more like the insides of a fancy Xerox copier or under the bonnet of a modern car with essentially zero room to spare, no parts which are readily identifiable to the layman and which cost fantastic amounts of money. These big machines will be fed supplies from large freezer hoppers and will need tending maybe once per day instead of non-stop.
Robotic automation of any complexity means they’ll need a ROS2-like solution. The need to solve the automation with ROS2 means either Mickey D’s is going to need a staff of people making 10x what a burger flipper makes or there will come up a new industry of ROS2 experts because, if you want to productize these robots ROS2 is going to be necessary. The reason that you haven’t seen them so far is, the software is being developed still to a usable state. Once that’s at a point it can lend itself as easily to fried chicken as to burgers as to tacos and the actual robot itself is created and refined enough to do fried chicken or burgers or tacos all from the same basic hardware chassis, you’ll see a LOT of unemployed former burger flippers essentially overnight and the idea of a fast food restaurant will evolve to something more like a kiosk.
A hundred and seventy years ago when the owner of a little mercantile shop in San Francisco decided against going to the Sierra Nevada mountains to mine placer gold with everyone else and instead decided to mine the miners (he bought every shovel for miles and promptly jacked up the prices on shovels that he now controlled the only supply of) it wasn’t a new tactic. It’s actually how business works. Some people don’t have the stomach or heart for it. Others do.
If you want to be the one mining the miners then you should be getting your ass educated in software development and mechanical engineering and then you should learn ROS2 because all these whiny-ass, purple haired, emotionally retarded and intellectually crippled wastes of human skin that think a fast food job is something they can rely on as a way to not have to try very hard in life are not going to be options for burger flipping machine repair or calibration in the very near future. They’re, instead, going to add substantially to the population of the sector of society that’s been more heavily populated by drug addicts and mental defectives: The homeless.
How’d you like that. A post without a single picture. Thing is, I know a few people in the industry and they don’t want pictures taken of their toys because they’re doing exactly what I described above. If you’re a low end worker, you should be literally shaking with terror right now because there’s only going to be a decreasing need for your services as time goes by and society will begin to behave toward you exactly as they’d describe your financial situation: “Poor”.