Bot Cafe: “Robots don’t want tips”

AMom is happy: “Next order. Now I’ll get to work. His two six-jointed arms go down. The left hand takes a stack of paper cups, lowers the top one, turns it over and holds it under the coffee maker. At the same time, the right hand picks up the waiting aluminum container and brings it to a kind of dispensing station from which the milk comes. After a little over a minute, the coffee is poured, Adam pulls out a mug, pours milk and places it in front of the counter. “Your latte is ready,” he says.

Adam is a robot and his workplace is Botbar in Greenpoint, a trendy neighborhood in New York’s Brooklyn borough. This is the first cafe in an American metropolitan area where a robot serves coffee and thus takes over tasks that are performed by human baristas at other coffee shops like Starbucks.

Both the ordering on the touch screen and the serving of drinks are fully automated. At the moment, the store is still in test mode and it is planned to open to the general public in the near future. “We want to create a new generation of cafes,” Boat Bar manager Sunny Lam says during a visit.

“People are unpredictable”

The operators of the futuristic cafe are delighted with the advantages Adam has over human workers: “The robots don’t need breaks, they don’t need to go to the toilet, and they can work 24 hours a day,” says Lam. Adam’s maker, Las Vegas-based Richtech Robotics, writes on his robot blog: “They don’t want tips and don’t steal. You don’t even need a human resources department.” The Botbar website states that Adam is “more agile than a human” and can “perform complex sequences with ease” precisely because he has six joints in each hand.

Until recently, the Botbar website was also advertised with the phrase: “People are unpredictable.” First of all, this meant that the robots could work much more precisely and serve coffee of a consistent quality. The wording has now been removed, now more innocuously saying that Adam provides “consistency in every cup”.

Dancing to “YMCA”

Perhaps realizing that many people perceive robots as something threatening, the creators of Botbar are trying to give Adam human features. “Adam is like a friend to me,” Lam says. On the Botbar website, the robot is described as a “passionate service provider.” Adam even knows how to dance. Lam demonstrates this with the Village People YMCA. He activates the “Start Dancing” function, and when the first notes of the song are played, Adam raises both hands and moves them left and right. Lam imagines Adam taking a break from dancing “for stretching” once an hour when the store is open.

The opening of the robot cafe comes at a time when there is more talk about workplace automation than ever. The old question of how robots make humans obsolete has become even more relevant with the advent of language models such as ChatGPT that work with artificial intelligence. Adam’s maker, Richtech, acknowledges that the robot could help cut labor costs, but notes that many hospitality businesses are having difficulty finding staff.

Source: Frantfurter Allgemeine

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