DrinkBot 2012

Hey! Your droids. We don’t serve their kind here.

The proper response to this sort of bigotry is of course to open your own joint so cool that it siphons off that bastard’s customers until he goes broke and ends up drowning his sorrows in a paper bag-wrapped bottle of MD-D2 in an alley alongside bantha-less sand people. Don’t think that’s a workable plan? Not so fast.


Welcome to BarBot 2012, the annual exhibition of efforts (serious and not-so) to bring the Singularity to the bar scene, where robots are welcome since they own the joint. It was held this last weekend in San Francisco. I didn’t write about it in advance because I didn’t know about it in advance. I, drink-writer of assorted weirdness, got no press release. I’m not saying I get no press-releases at all. I am always appraised of the latest developments in flavored vodkas for instance, often in triplicate. But the iron-clad rule of PR seems to be Don’t Tell Doug About the Stuff He Can Actually Use.

You seem troubled. May I offer you a drink?

Erm, sure. Thanks. Anyway, Barbot is an annual fundraiser to raise money and publicity for the RoboGames in April. Designers showcase all manner of robotic drink-serving technology, ranging from proto-practical to “That had to have been designed while being over-served by a previous model.”

May I help you find a seat?

No thanks. I’ll just mingle.
There isn’t a lot of detailed info on each of the exhibits/participants. Many seem to be sort of one trick ponys, like this design that as far as I can tell produces only these cool dry ice-garnished Cosmopolitans. I must say, this particular method of dispensing drinks is not one I hope will be emulated by many human bartenders.

Ahhhhhhhh… There. May I offer you a delicious Cosmopolitan, sir?

Uh, no thanks.
The other end of the spectrum is Drink Making Unit 2.0, from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. I’m sure they are a subsidiary of Doofenshmirtz Evil, Inc., but am having a hard time finding the link.

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The enemy of the platypus is… a Manhattan.

If you don’t have kids, you will get none of that humor. Rent some kids so you can watch Phineas and Ferb, Vol. 7.

Anyway, DMU 2.0 appears to be a more serious examination of the methods possible for creating a real robot bartender. Last year’s model used breast pumps to fill the drink. This year they have gotten more zen, and more accurate, with the deer chaser methodology to see above. With this, you could actually make some decent drinks, with a few enhancements, such as having the deer chasers be of varying size and be on a rotating rack to get them to the right ingredients.

It even has a spiffy little inventory controller that keeps track of what you pour, as seen here:

May I offer you a delicious Kahlua and Red Bull?

Please, EMSL, get a real mixologist on staff. I’m not sure anything you can make out of those ingredients will make me happy.

Of course, modern bar trends do seem to have penetrated the DrinkBot scene this year.

I wear the mustache ironically.

I’m sure you do.

Even more in tune with modern craft bartender mores, I understand that plasma balls are the tattoos of Robot body modification.

That’ll be $18.50, please.

Yup, some things you can definitely program.

Still, I think we are a long way from any of these machines putting any serious dent in the ranks of bartenders. Here are a bunch more pictures from Make, I don’t see ears on any of the robots, so there is one function at least of a human bartender that they haven’t incorporated yet. And we are a long way indeed from being threatened with a robot who has the flexibility and creativity to compete with us.

Oh no!


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