Pouring soon at an event near you?
ASSOCIATIONS NOW, March 2007 , Intelligence
|Summary: Hey, R2-D2. Pour me a drink, will you?||
Its pick-up lines are a bit lame. It can't lend a sympathetic ear to your complaints about the opposite sex. But RoboBar--a robot that serves drinks like a bartender--delights its operators with its efficiency as it draws the curious and thirsty for cocktails, soft drinks, or even lattes.
RoboBar's centerpiece is a humanoid machine featuring a tuxedo-clad body and a flat-screen "head" displaying a video face. It can be programmed with a variety of voices for chatting up customers. One of its two arms grips cups or glasses, while the other arm picks up and decaps beer bottles. The glass-handling arm moves to a tower fitted with up to four dispensing guns that can each pour 16 liquors, mixes, juices, or wines.
With 64 ingredients to choose from, RoboBar can set 'em up with nearly any drink recipe in the barkeep's guide. (For dry events, a Prohibition model dispenses sodas or coffee drinks.) Customers receive their drinks 20 seconds after ordering via touch screen, and up to 12 drinks can be placed on the server tray for delivery to customers.
RoboBar is manufactured by Motoman (slogan: "We already make your car--let us make your drink!"), a robotics company based in Dayton, Ohio. Since its introduction in 2005, RoboBar has found its biggest market in high-volume venues, such as casino service bars, which value a high-speed bartender that doesn't spill, overpour, or take breaks (or nips from the stock). But RoboBar is also available for special events. For about $8,500 you can lease the robot--plus a human technician to set it up and supervise it--for a day in an exhibit hall or at a reception.
As for RoboBar's head-turning appeal: "The novelty makes it a great way to draw people in," says Ron Potter, senior director of emerging robot markets. He knows because he's shown it at the National Restaurant Association and Motoman's own trade group, the Robotic Industries Association.
The people who belly up to the RoboBar treat it like it's almost human, he says--although it definitely could use some work on its flirting. Among its conversational gambits: "You're looking good--have you been working out lately?" and "If I weren't bolted to the floor, I'd go home with you tonight." Yet to come: A model that says, "You've had enough, Buster."
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