The shining promise of robotics is that it will eventually free us from all forms of drudgery. It only follows that as technology progresses our definition of what drudgery is will become a sliding scale, a moving target. Have we come so far already as to define the noble pursuit of tending bar “drudgery?” The RoboBar from the Motoman company answers this question with an emphatic “Yes!”
I have a friend who spent a quite a few years as a bartender – for the sake of anonymity I will just refer to him as “Silas”. Silas wasn’t tireless, rarely showed up on time and would kick people out of the bar for no good reason. Those of us he liked would get preferential treatment in the form of free beer and as a result he quickly rose to the position of head bartender. Would I choose the cold precision-poured libations of the RoboBar over a human bartender? Somehow I doubt the RoboBar would fall asleep on my couch and wake me at 3:00am with 100 decibel snoring reminiscent of a giant earth-mover clear-cutting the rainforest.
The Motoman website describes the characteristics of the Robobar as untiring. It can pour drinks flawlessly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It never slips a customer the odd free beer. It will never over pour a beer or get heavy handed with the vodka. It doesn’t require a salary and only uses about $0.30 a day in electricity. But is this John Henry vs. the Steam Engine kind of comparison really needed for the bartending industry? Do people like Silas yearn to be set free from their boozy yoke? If we were to stage a competition between the RobBar and Silas, much like the John Henry story – would it be a fight to the end? Would the endless whirring of the RoboBar be barely beat out by the overwhelming power of the indomitable human spirit? In the final climax of the great duel, spent but knowing he had just won, would Silas throw back his head and let out one last mighty complaint about a customer and then slump over the bar top dead?
I think we need to accept the RoboBar as inevitable progress. Besides, someone out there is bound to come out with a hack that will let it be happy hour all the time. More info over on MotoMan.