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Restaurant in China Employs Robotic Wait Staff & Chefs
2/18/2013

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)
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)

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Elizabeth M
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Re: Fast Food Robots
Elizabeth M   2/22/2013 5:56:36 AM
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So if I am to understand you right, Ann, it is the less developed countries that will suffer worker displacement more than developed countries? That is a shame, I guess, which also may send those workers over to the U.S. to work illegally and be exploited, as another commenter pointed out.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Fast Food Robots
Elizabeth M   2/22/2013 5:01:52 AM
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Good point, Ann. The French are within their rights to be that way about food, but there is no excuse for the service. Then again, I sometimes don't mind how I'm treated by the wait staff if the food is deiicious and I don't have to tip them. Put robots in a Michelin star restaurant and I think I would be fine! But service is so tied to the restaurant industry itself, especially in the U.S., which is why I think an idea like that--or robots in most restaurants in general except fast-food chains--wouldn't fly.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Fast Food Robots
Ann R. Thryft   2/21/2013 2:28:39 PM
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Actually, I said "not me"--call me crazy, but I like French waiters, snooty and all. I think the French have several things to be legitimately snooty about, and one of them is food. But bad service? That's something else.

Charles Murray
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Re: Robot restaurant help in China.
Charles Murray   2/21/2013 12:57:11 PM
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I've always suspected that they think I'm not good enough to be walking into a French restaurant, Ann. A robot might not be friendlier, but at least it wouldn't assume I'm Homer Simpson.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Fast Food Robots
Ann R. Thryft   2/21/2013 12:24:59 PM
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The problem with a lot of job displacement discussions/analyses/studies is that they don't take into account the kind of new jobs created and the kind of old jobs that become no longer available to lesser-skilled people. The relationship between the skill level of the labor force and the kind of jobs available to it is not as balanced as many such studies would make one think. But that discussion takes a lot more than a few sentences.

Regarding robots, the Freedonia study I reported on here

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=257119

bluntly and matter-of-factly stated that (I quote myself here): "Because of higher labor costs, robots are being used to replace human workers in existing applications in developed countries. But in developing countries, they're more often deployed to carry out difficult and dangerous tasks that people can't do." As one might imagine, this is not a popular sentiment in the robotics industry.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Robot restaurant help in China.
Ann R. Thryft   2/21/2013 12:23:54 PM
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Why thanks, Chuck. I take it you're not fond of French waiters--or at least, waiters in French restaurants?

Elizabeth M
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Re: Fast Food Robots
Elizabeth M   2/21/2013 4:13:28 AM
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Interesting statistic, Chuck! Not sure if research into robot-human displacement has gotten far enough that we would know yet, but would be good to research that. I think it may be a bit of time before we see the full effect of robots in the workforce.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Robot restaurant help in China.
Elizabeth M   2/21/2013 3:49:05 AM
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I agree with Chuck, Ann--another funny and French-related comment! I know exactly what you mean...and it's the same with some staff members here in Portugal when it comes to service oriented jobs. A friendly, attentive robot would be far better than someone who audibly sighs and rolls their eyes when you need service because it takes you away from whatever phone call they were on or magazine they were reading.

Charles Murray
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Re: Fast Food Robots
Charles Murray   2/20/2013 9:00:38 PM
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McKinsey & Co. recently concluded that for every job displaced by the Internet, 2.6 new jobs open up. I wonder if the same holds for robotics.

Charles Murray
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Re: Robot restaurant help in China.
Charles Murray   2/20/2013 8:57:17 PM
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You get the "best comment of the week" award, Ann. That's quite an honor considering the week isn't over yet.

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