Restaurant in China Employs Robotic Wait Staff & Chefs
The Harbin Haohai Robot Company in China has developed a robotic restaurant staff and opened a restaurant that uses them to cook, greet clients, and wait tables. The robots, which are multicolored and travel around via sensors on the floor, cost about $31,000 to $47,000 and run on batteries with a five-hour life. The move is part of a growing trend toward service robots, a market that could outpace even industrial robots in the next several years. (Source: Reuters)
I'm not too sure about Europe but I lived in Shanghai and travel to Asia often. The service is decent. It ranges a little from country to country. Thai servers are a little sweeter than Korean servers who seem more warn than Japanese servers, etc. Overall, the aim to please is very high. Unlike the US, most aren't allowed to be spontaneous or give "extras" without express permission.
A robot will follow the rules but won't have that something special that most waiters, bartenders, etc in Asia give.
Maybe it's a good addition in a cafeteria setting.
First: under-employed engineers had to work at fast food joints. Now THEY are being replaced by robots. I guess the engineers will have to wash dishes now. No wait- we (engineers) already invented dish washing machines. May be we can take the orders from customers. Oh crap - we also invented kiosks that take my order at the local deli. I guess we could have cleaned the floors except other damned engineers invented vacuum cleaning robots.
I wonder if my food stamps work for just EATING at the restaurants.
I don't even have to park my car outside because Toyota, Honda (or someone) is making cars that park themselves.
I guess the only thing left is to pick tomatos because we managed to run off the only humans that were doing that.
Elizabeth, I think you brought up an excellent point. My first reaction to this article was one of dislike; in my mind there are too many technoloical advances in our "Brave New World" that is slowly robbing us of our humanity. Social media is the antithesis of true social behavior for example - we have depersonalized the way we relate to each other. Using robots as wait staff is yet another example. I still go to the line that has a "real" checker at the grocery store. We know the waiters and waitresses by name at the local restaurants my husband and I frequent and inquire as to how they and their families are doing. We also stop by the little shop where we get our hair cut to say hello to the ladies that have cut our hair for the last five years if we are in the neighborhood. I just think that personal interaction with our fellow human beings adds to the quality of the human experience...but if wait staff in other countries serve in a different capacity and as you have pointed out are not as valued, then perhaps the bots may have a place in those societies. I think I would rather see them in repetitive functions that are typically done in isolation - like dishwashing or stacking napkins. You just can't replace a human smile with metal and plastic, no matter how skillfully done.
#1) In my younger days, about a century ago, restaurant workers were NOT subject to the same minimum wage laws as other non-restaurant workers. IF that has changed on a state-by-state basis, I have no current knowledge, so the entry elsewhere MAY very well be true!
#2) This development seems very ironic, considering that China IS the MOST populous nation on the face of the Earth. Logic would generally dictate that the "powers to be" would seek to create jobs that MAXIMIZE the country's able-bodied work force, NOT attempt to MINIMIZE it by technological revolution.
#3) In many major U.S. cities, especially in the northern tier, just about everyone who works is a member of some union, whether it be a dishwashers' union, or servers' union, etc. Even stenographers (quaint, old term) no doubt are part of a union...... I can't see the union bosses allowing thse robots to incur on their turf. Look at the example of the UAW when the BIG 3 (or 4?) first installed robots into the vehicle manufacturing business. The outcry was heard 'round the world!
I agree with Greg. China is not the place you might need these. In the US we have people coming in illegally to work in the food service industry becuase the jobs are not interesting and many Americans will not do them. People come for these jobs because they are better than the life they leave behind. In China people come from the rural areas to work in the cities for the same reason.
I have seen these types of robots before. In about 2000 my wife and I went to Yo Susho after a play in London. They had a conveyor belt for the sushi and a drinks robot that followed a track in the floor and talked to the customers, asking if they wanted a drink. They really were just a drink cart with a processor and did not look anything like these. I wonder if that is the case today. I think it would be fun, and at least it is novel, for now.
Asside from the basic process of eating for energy, I go for the human interaction. A waiter/waitress with a good attitude makes the experience pleasent. As much as I like robots for their engineering and increasing flexibility, I do not want them providing food service. I find it ironic that China has introduced this activity, when Labor there is extremely inexpensive.
This concept is interesting but I wonder if it will ever move beyond novelty status. Certainly for highly repetitive chores, such as washing dishes, robotics could make inroads. But given the high initial cost and lack of flexibility, not sure how much impact it will have. Interesting story to say the least. Thanks.
Some of our culture's most enduring robots appeared in the 80s. The Aliens series produced another evil android, and we saw light robot fare in the form of Short Circuit. Two of the great robots of all time also showed up: The Terminator and RoboCop.
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