Robots are ready to Shake (and Stir) Up U.S. Bars

Have you yet been to a bar where the barkeeper is a robot who is serving you? No joke, here is what it is all about this robot application. This is far from textiles and clothing, but certainly will make you curious and entertain you!

By guest author Leigh Kamping-Carder at the Wall Street Journal:


“There is no need to tip the mixologist at the Tipsy Robot, a glittering bar in Las Vegas where automated arms handle all the shaking, stirring, muddling and garnishing, making up to 120 cocktails an hour.

The silver-and-turquoise lounge, in the Miracle Mile Shops mall on the Strip, has 28 counter-style seats, each equipped with a tablet, facing a bar counter topped with two industrial-grade robotic arms. Patrons can order signature and classic cocktails, or fill a virtual cup with up to 14 ingredients of their choosing. Then the robotic arms go to work, gathering ingredients from a kind of futuristic back-bar automat; reaching up to a lattice of 120 liquor bottles; and tipping the resulting cocktail into a plastic cup proffered by a mechanical dispenser in the counter. Drinks take 60 to 90 seconds to make, and cost USD 12 to USD 16, said Stephan Mornet, president of Robotic Innovations, Tipsy Robot’s parent company.

The Tipsy Robot in Las Vegas has two robotic arms that make up to 120 drinks an hour

For its automated bar, Tipsy Robot turned to Makr Shakr, an Italian start-up that built its first robot bartender for Google I/O, the annual developer conference, in 2013. The company is one of several trying to automate bartending. Its bar counters now sit in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., and on five Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Each one is made to order, and costs over USD 1 million, Makr Shakr said.

Today, you will find robot bartenders mostly in touristy, high-traffic watering holes. As companies introduce smaller and less expensive models, these automated mixologists are poised to become more widespread. “Your local pub, your local bartender is not in any jeopardy,” Mornet said. “But in the future, absolutely.”

According to manufacturers, robot bartenders are money savers, cutting down on spillage, eliminating employee theft and ensuring consistency. Another selling point is their ability to collect data on drink orders and, when users create profiles to save custom cocktails, on demographics.

In May, Makr Shakr debuted a mass-market version of its product, the roughly 10-foot-long Makr Shakr 3.0, which can fit into an existing bar space, and costs EUR 99000 (USD 115000). The company gets three to five purchase requests a day, about half from bar owners around the world, as well as individuals and other business owners, said board member Carlo Ratti.

The Smartender, another automated cocktail dispensing system, aims to replace the back-of-house bartender who pours drinks for servers at chain restaurants, casinos and sports stadiums. The system costs roughly USD 30000 including shipping, installation and training for employees, an expense that Barry Fieldman of Smart Bar USA, the Las Vegas-based manufacturer, said companies quickly recoup by reducing bar staff and waste. (The company also has a portable version, which is available for home use for USD 25000 on Hammacher Schlemmer, though John Pinto, the company’s “image and whimsy buyer,” said that only a couple have sold in the last three years.)

Other start-ups are tackling the home market. The USD 199 Bibo, which went on sale last fall, operates like a Keurig single-serving coffee maker: Insert a special pouch of mix and add liquor, and the machine dispenses the correct amount of water to make a cocktail. Phoenix-based start-up Barbotics plans to sell a USD 700 countertop model in a couple of months, which could also be used to upgrade hotel mini bars or bottle service, according to co-founder David Duggan.

Next month, New York-based start-up Barsys will launch residential and commercial versions of a microwave-size robot bartender. The home version will cost USD 1050; owners use an app to order from a list of 2000-plus cocktails, or create their own. Bar owners pay USD 2500 for a machine equipped with a data analytics package.

The matte black Barsys holds five bottles of liquor, which fit into nozzles on the top of the appliance. With a gentle whirr, a track moves a canister under the nozzles as they dispense liquid, while prongs inside the canister mimic the effect of shaking or stirring. “We could have designed a very simple machine, but we wanted to design a pretty cool one, so that’s why we added the movement element,” said CEO and founder Akshet Tewari.

A native of Delhi, Tewari majored in a hybrid engineering field called mechatronics in college. The idea for a robot bartender came to him during his last semester, in 2013, when he was spending nights partying and days in the lab. In December, Barsys launched in India, where it has about 148 units in use making 10000 cocktails monthly, Tewari said.

Next month, New York-based start-up Barsys will launch a microwave-size robot bartender in the U.S. The home version will cost USD 1050. Photo: Barsys

Still, Tewari doesn’t see his machine putting bartenders out of work. “In most of the bars, the bartender is the biggest crowd puller,” he said. “With Barsys it’s all about increasing the efficiency of a bar.”

Robot bartenders are unlikely to eliminate human bar jobs in the near future, experts say. “The mistake to make is always to think that just because a new piece of automation comes along that the total number of jobs is going to go down,” said Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at MIT and co-founder of the school’s Initiative on the Digital Economy. Crucially, a human needs to be present to verify age and ensure that overly intoxicated patrons are not served.