Could a robot make the perfect martini? It might lack the personal touch, but that’s what bars, restaurants—and cybernetics engineers—around the world are trying to find out as the hospitality industry faces one of the biggest challenges in reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic: ensuring safety. Memorizing thousands of recipes, mixing gin and bionics at high speeds and eliminating potential sources of disease transmission, robots are proving themselves outstanding candidates for manning the bar … so to speak.
Icelandic beverage company GlacierFire recently teamed with Makr Shakr, a manufacturer of robotic bartenders, to open a fully bionic bar called Ice+Fries in Reykjavík. It is part of a larger project the company has undertaken to envision how the hospitality industry can adapt to the health requirements of the pandemic and post-pandemic era.
Customers at Ice+Fries can choose from 20,000 customizable recipes, place their orders on tablets and receive confirmation via text or email. The robotic bartender, nicknamed “Toni,” then shakes, stirs or muddles the cocktails, and serves them in disposable cups. Toni’s two robotic arms are sanitized after each serving and can make 150 drinks per hour, without getting tired of either mixing or the guy at the bar who tells the same story over and over.
"We believe robotics can play a great role in tomorrow’s bars and restaurants," Makr Shakr CEO Emanuele Rossetti told Unfiltered via email. "It’s about showing that you can have a great time while staying absolutely safe."
Toni is among the robot bartenders and waiters assembling all over the world. “We got a huge demand for delivery robots, delivering drinks and food for restaurants because of social distancing,” bot-maker and Bots.co.uk human CEO Tim Warrington told Unfiltered. The British manufacturer has been making service robots for six years, and Warrington told us that demand has increased tenfold since the pandemic began, so much so that there is currently a 12-week delay on orders.
There are now automated helpers at La Gitana Loca, a bar in Seville, Spain, that serve beer with a robotic arm, and at Bar Baviera in Pamplona, where a robot can carry nine drinks at once. In the Netherlands, Asian restaurant Dadawan, in the city of Maastricht, has employed a trio of bots to help deliver food and drinks to tables. Chinese restaurant Royal Palace, in the small Dutch village of Renesse, is employing similar A.I. assistants. Warrington and Rossetti told us they've been getting calls and orders from China, India, Saudi Arabia and right here in the U.S.A. as well.
Warrington’s models, such as the “Amy Waitress” robot, can be "hired" for $40 per day or $1,200 per month at the moment, and are surprisingly easy to get to know. “You can use a laptop or iPhone with any of these robots,” Warrington said. “We make our software purposely to be able to be trained [by the restaurant] and used within four hours.”
Robots are eager to be of service in other ways, too. “We also got a massive call for the UVC robot which has been used at bars and restaurants to disinfect areas [with ultraviolet light],” said Warrington. At Makr Shakr, "we are focusing on ‘teaching’ Toni, our best robot, how to make coffees and other hot beverages," said Rossetti. As far as we know, robots have not been equipped with obnoxious-customer-ejecting technology … yet.
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