Robots capable of churning out 400 hamburgers in an hour could one day become a permanent fixture across fast food chains. Momentum Machines, the Google (GOOGL)-backed startup that specializes in building these high-tech, artificial intelligence-powered devices, has just secured over $18 million of new venture capital, according to an SEC filing.
San Francisco-based Momentum Machines debuted its prototype burger-making machine in 2012, eliciting awe from tech geeks and criticism from employment activists. It’s not hard to understand why: the startup’s robots can grill a beef patty, layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onion, before putting it in a bun and wrapping it up to go 400 times in an hour — a feat that no human could ever hope to achieve.
This revelation prompted former McDonald's (MCD) CEO Ed Rensi to tell Fox Business last year that these machines could provide a huge boost to fast food chains, particularly as the industry is under pressure due to rising minimum wages. "It's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging french fries,” he said. (See also: McDonald's Is Desperate to Modernize Its Franchisees.)
Source: Momentum Machines/Foodbeast
Rensi’s comments came shortly after Momentum Machines applied for a building permit to convert a ground-floor retail space in San Francisco into a restaurant. Since then, the secretive company has disappeared from the public eye again, although its latest windfall — and list of high profile investors — suggests that Momentum Machines isn’t about to become the latest startup to vanish into obscurity. (See also: Robots Really Do Take Jobs.)
According to S&P Capital IQ, a number of well-known firms are invested in the company, including Google Ventures, Alphabet Inc.’s venture capital arm. Other backers include K5 Ventures, Lemnos Labs and Khosla Ventures, the California-based venture capital firm whose founder Vinod Khosla regularly appears on Forbe’s Midas list.
Momentum Machines’ board also boasts plenty of experience. According to Axios, Sven Strohband, chief technology officer of Khosla Ventures, and Stanford University physics professor Zhixun Shen are two of the names responsible for making important decisions at the startup firm.