Science Fact: If you have $1,500 to $2,700 in spare cash, you can acquire a necessity of the modern home – a robotic bartender. This modern technical breakthrough is named Monsieur and its availability was announced last month with a media blitz (see links to articles at the end of this post).
If you’re imagining an obsequious Threepio with slightly clumsy movements as he shakes your martini, you’ll be disappointed. Monsieur is not humanoid in form. This robotic bartender looks more like one of those cappuccino-making machines you see in airline clubs and fancy hotels: a plain metallic box with a recess where you place your glass to be filled. However, the ubiquity of coffee machines suggests that we will also be seeing the Monsieur machines around, wherever drinks flow freely.
When I looked for more information on this topic, I found that the announcement of Monsieur paled next to a much more important event last month: BarBot, the cocktail robot event at the Bay Area Science Festival. Twice a year, the BarBot folks organize an event where the best of the Booze Robots are put on display to show their stuff and serve cocktails.
At last month’s BarBot there were many classy machines vying to be favorite robotic bartender. The slide show in this article is almost a great as the title of the writeup: A Night With The World’s Greatest Robot Bartenders: With robots and alcohol together, what could possibly go wrong? Here are some of the machines highlighted, with further links to their makers:
– Dr Hadacoff’s Elixirator is a steampunk-inspired design and sports appendages that “serve no purpose except to give the illusion of advanced technology”.
– The Thin Bot 1.5 robotic bartender, provided by DARPAbots (Drinks Advanced Research Projects Agency), is tall with see-through parts, and can mix 15 different drinks.
– The Mai Tai Bot looks like a Tiki god and makes only, well, you know…
– The Manhattan Project BarBot is another single-recipe robotic bartender. It mixes, shakes and chills its Manhattans and dispenses them through a “Manneken Pis” statuette.
– The Schrödinger’s Martini robotic bartender starts with a glass of gin inside a box. After you close the lid of the box, a Geiger counter measures stray radiation and counts the number of clicks to determine how much vermouth to add to the gin. Since the radiation counts are unpredictable, until you open the box and taste it, a quantum physicist would say that your martini is simultaneously wet and dry.
Science Speculation: At this point in an article, I usually try to reach beyond the facts, or provide a different viewpoint on the facts. But how could I possibly top the great advances in technology described above?
Instead of stepping forward into a Jetsons future when someone will invent an even sillier way to serve us alcohol, let’s take a look at history. Not ancient history, just recent popular culture, of which two examples immediately come to mind:
– The Beer Launching Fridge (2007): This invention by soon-to-graduate engineer John Cornwell was featured on the Late Show with David Letterman. When this blog was published in 2013, YouTube displayed a video of that segment which has since been removed per copyright claims by Letterman’s production company Worldwide Pants Inc. However, this and other beer-robotic events are still described at the Kegerator website.
Cornwell’s invention purports to solve a universal problem: you’re settled in on the couch watching TV and are suddenly hit with a tremendous thirst. However, you’re so comfortable that you don’t want to get up. Fortunately, your drinking arm, which is not yet as atrophied as the rest of your body, has the energy to click a remote control, whereupon the refrigerator across the room launches a can of beer at your head. The video is fun to watch and elicited some comments not fit to be repeated. However, I found the following exchange pretty funny:
CLIn7 l33tW00d said: Since the fridge can be moved, why not place it next to the couch?
To which Richard Hua replied: BLASPHEMY. DO NOT SPEAK OF SUCH THINGS.
– Usuform Robotic Bartender (1943): This, alas, fictional bartender appears in a short story called Q. U. R. (Quinby’s Usuform Robots) by Anthony Boucher. The story imagines a future world in which human-like robots are everywhere, doing every imaginable routine task. Quinby puts forth the radical idea that robots don’t need to be humanoid, they just need a brain and the right sensors and actuators to perform their designed task. A running joke through the story is that the Martian ambassador, whose cooperation is needed for a mining treaty, won’t leave Mars because he can’t get a decent Three Planets cocktail. This cocktail depends on just the right amount of a key ingredient, vuzd, and only Martian bartenders with their many tentacles are able to prepare the drink. Quinby solves the problem and secures the ambassador’s cooperation by building a robotic bartender with tentacles. With the flip of a tentacle the robot is able to deliver the precise amount of vuzd (3.6547823 drops) to make a perfect Three Planets drink.
A robotic bartender seems more of a party trick than a useful home appliance. However, what about a robotic cook in your kitchen to stir the marinara sauce all afternoon or make that soup from scratch?
Drawing Credit: Sarah Dungan, permission granted by BarBot.us
Articles about the Monsieur robotic bartender:
Introducing Monsieur, a robotic bartender mixing 300 cocktails in your home
Meet Monsieur, the robotic bartender: Machine learns user’s moods and preferences to mix the ‘perfect’ cocktail
$2,700 robotic bartender has a drink ready when you get home
Monsieur robotic bartender pours libations at home for $1,499 (hands-on)