Do Androids dream of electric sheep, Philip K Dick asked over 50 years ago. In 2019, they wait on and serve people at restaurants.
Advances in technology are feeding our fantasies and today, collaborative robots, or cobots as they are called, work alongside humans, leading to a reality that we could only read about in our favourite sci-fi novel some years ago.
Tapping into the potential of their “non-human aspects”, robots have been used in various tasks that require precision, for example, automotive painting. From robots playing piano at shows to segregating river pebbles based on their geological age, there are plenty that these man-made beings are up to, but can robots serve food?
These restaurants in India certainly seem to think so, and, if anything else, have proved to be a great hit with the crowd.
Here’s look at restaurants where robot-waiters will get you a cup of coffee, or a burger, if you were so inclined:
Robot Restaurant in Bengaluru, Chennai, and Coimbatore
Robot Restaurant, which recently opened at Indiranagar, Bengaluru, made headlines as the first robot-based restaurant in the city. Expectantly nesting on the fantasy of getting food served by robots, the place was packed during lunchtime on a weekday as five robots named Arya, Ramya, Zoey, Alice, and Sansa came gliding to serve a variety of Indo-Asian dishes.
When a curious lady stood in the way as robot Zoey brought chocolate cake, she stopped and spoke in a polite robotic voice, “Excuse me, you are in my way. Would you please make a room for me? Thank you.” All Android-based, the robots run for 24 hours after charging for four to five hours.
To make the customers, especially children, feel more involved, patrons are allowed to choose the names of the robot each week, as chits are drawn for this purpose.
A sixth robot, placed as the receptionist is called Queen Robot and will operate soon, said Karthikeyan Ramesh, the restaurant’s General Manager.
Using retina verification, it will register a customer’s details when they visit for the first time and greet by their name during the next visit. After inputs such as mapping of table numbers and kitchen in the 300 sq ft restaurant, the Queen Robot will be able to guide customers to their table or washroom.
Orders are made through a tablet which is kept on each table. Additionally, the restaurants have mini-trains serving appetizers when robots are tasked with many orders.
Owner Venkatesh Rajendran plans on setting up another four to five restaurants in Bengaluru in the next six to 12 months but the locations are not decided yet.
The first of such futuristic dining experience in India is also credited to Venkatesh as he opened his first venture, also called Robot Restaurant, in Chennai in November 2017. Including this first venture, he now owns a chain of five restaurants and has a total of 18 robots.
Having partnered with a Chinese robot manufacturing firm, they hope to expand the exotic business pan India and once again, get people coming out to dine instead of ordering in at home.
Uruka Restaurant in Guwahati, Assam
Uruka in Guwahati has brought in a humanoid robot called Palki to wait on tables, this August. The first in Assam, Palki fitted with a traditional Assamese Sattriya attire has got the women-run restaurant packed.
Restaurant owner Karishma Begum told media that families come and enjoy the novelty of being served by the robot. Palki was designed by Karishma’s husband, SN Farid, and she now plans to introduce three additional robots.
Uruka refers to the eve of the harvest festival Magh Bihu when everyone gathers for a feast. Taking inspiration from this, the restaurant also serves a welcome drink, unlimited starters, and traditional Assamese buffet and hence, Palki’s dress is suited to the theme.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)
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