'Asahi' may Leave Bartenders Jobless

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 27 2008 2:43 PM

British and Japanese researchers have developed a robot that may give bartenders a run for their money.

The robot called Mr. Asahi can pull pints, pour shots and open bottles at high speed without asking for orders to be repeated.

It has been named after Japanese beer company Asahi, which is looking after it on its US tour these days.

"I think everyone loves the novelty of a robot that can pour beer. We've had a few bartenders who have said 'with this guy on the scene, my job's in danger', but given that he cost £100,000 to make, it may be a while before that happens," the Scotsman quoted Martin Leppard, the technical manager for the company, as saying.

"He's been pretty reliable so far. It's just a matter of making sure the beer cooler is on and that he's booted up properly before serving," he added.

Mr. Asahi's creators used the latest robotic technology to make it, and it took eight engineers 200 man-hours to assemble.

The robot's movements involve animatronics, usually used in film special effects, with compressed air controlled and regulated through valves and switching mechanisms.

Hardware concealed under Mr. Asahi's revolving bar top drives him and a barrel of beer, meaning that the robot weighs a quarter of a ton.

Its makers claim that it can consistently serve people in less than two minutes.

Regis Lemaitre, chairman of the Scottish branch of the United Kingdom Bartenders' Guild, said: "A major part of bartending is the social skills, being able to read the customer and engage in conversation, know when they're getting ready for another drink. It's down to the personal touch, the way you handle the glass and mix the cocktail.

Lemaitre added: "Certainly, I have to say 'bravo' to the people who created a robot that can bartend, it's quite something to have invented such a complex machine, but I think human bar-staff jobs are quite safe."

Jeni Green of Sloans Bar in Glasgow agreed: "When you work behind a bar, you're involving yourself in somebody's life."

"And while a robot might be sitting there smiling as it's pouring your drink and doing it really quickly, there's nothing better than being met at the bar by somebody who has a genuine smile on their face and can engage with you properly. It can be just asking how they are, having a joke, making that person comfortable.

"Having a robot bartender would be a novelty. It would be fun to see one of them in the bar and experience being served by it, but it would be a gimmicky thing," she added.