Better Living Through Big Data

Robot Bartender, Make it a Double

Jessica Ferri Writer

We’ve all been there. It’s Thursday night and the bar is packed. The bartender seems to be making a concerted effort not to notice you, desperate for a gin and tonic after a hard day at work.

Surely there must be an easier way to get a drink in a packed bar? Luckily, developers have realized when it comes to an adult beverage, your own personal R2D2 might come in handy.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line plans to unveil a robotic bartending system for their latest ship, the Quantum of the Seas. Customers in the bar will put in their drink order via tablet, and then two (not-humanoid) robotic arms will get to work mixing their cocktail, assisted by some human waiters and waitresses who will bring it to your table.

Like your gin with soda instead of tonic? Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain says “You can be quite customized. That’s part of the whole concept of cruising.”

No more shouting above the crowd. You don’t even have to leave your seat. The robotic bartenders are just one-part of the tech-centric Quantum of the Seas, which also features a space for aerial performers with roboscreens, super-fast Internet and a giant mechanical arm that can move passengers high above the vessel.

The idea for a robotic bartender came from Ben Schaefer, a mechatronics engineer from Limenau, Germany, who currently “employs” Carl, a humanoid robot who can mix drinks and even engage in small talk. After studying robotics his entire career, Schaefer opened the bar as an experiment in humanoid robotics. His hope is that the more time Carl spends with his customers in his nine-seat bar the better he will be at being “human.”

And if you’re more in the market for a bar “where everybody knows your name,” fear not. Two enterprising engineers from Atlanta have created Monsieur, an artificially intelligent, portable robotic bartender who functions like an electronic personal butler.

For a party in the home, guests can send their drink orders through an app to Monsieur. If the party gets out of hand, Monsieur monitors blood-alcohol levels and will send an alert when someone is too inebriated to drive. He can even call guests a taxi.

The app will also remember any preferences — for those who hate Mondays, a double-scotch will be ready when you walk through the door. With two settings, “light” and “boss,” one can choose how much alcohol goes into the cocktail.

With an efficient monitoring system, Monsieur will send out a text or email as a reminder that some supplies are running low, a big help to bartenders or club owners that might use more than one Monsieur in their business.

The monitoring technology on your alcohol supply is similar to that of iKeg, powered by Intel technology, which monitors which kegs in the bar are running low. That way, bartenders never have to worry that the bar has “run out” of their customers’ favorite seasonal brew.

Monsieur costs $5,000 (plus shipping), and iKeg charges a $30-50 monthly fee. So, perhaps it makes more sense to hire a human being or two for your parties.

And there are those of us who still like to imbibe thanks to a real live human bartender.

“Drinking at a bar is all about the experience — the camaraderie, the exchange of pleasantries and ideas, or trying a new tipple that was specifically recommended by the expert bartender,” writes Kayleigh Kulp in the Daily Beast. “Bartending has become a noble, career-oriented profession again with the last decade’s craft cocktail boom. Will apps and machines make their profession irrelevant? And, if so, is that what we really want?”

Perhaps there’s some kind of middle ground, where mixologists could work with robots to streamline ordering process and make it more efficient. Sure, the robot bartender can’t console you as you weep over your Jameson on your failed relationship. But its inability to remember that conversation the next time you step into the bar could be a hidden plus.


Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean International, Monsieur & SteadyServ.


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