Video: What Do You Call a One-Armed Bartender?

The answer is JAMES -- Joint Action for Multimodal Embodied Social Systems, the work of the Munich Research and Transfer Institute for Software Intensive Systems (fortiss GmbH) in collaboration with a number of other European research institutions in Germany, the UK, and Greece.

While the robot does indeed fetch drinks, that's not the main reason for his development. Researchers designed the robot -- which stands about 4 feet tall, has a yellow, cat-like head, and greets his customers in English -- to experiment with robots interacting with humans in public spaces. JAMES can take orders and hand out drinks and also, like many human bartenders, deliver the occasional wisecrack.

To do these things, researchers built the robot with artificial intelligence that can fulfill specific tasks while also being aware of the social needs of the humans he serves, according to fortiss. This requires a programmed ability to analyze situations and come up with the correct behavior, particularly in dealing with more than one human at once.

Fortiss has posted a series of videos showing JAMES at work on YouTube. In one, he greets a customer with a friendly, "Hello, how are you today?" and responds to requests to deliver both a generic drink and a specific beverage of a customer's choice. He also encourages the customer to "enjoy" the drink after putting it on the bar.

In another video, JAMES shows an ability for more sophisticated interaction, letting one customer know he'll be with him in a minute before serving a drink to his friend who also approached the bar. He then addresses his other customer and serves the proper drink to him (watch the video below).

JAMES joins China's noodle-making Chef Cui, the Toyota Human Support Robot, and Rethink Robotics' Baxter as a new breed of robots that are designed to work alongside humans as helpers or to take over different tasks. While sometimes they may put employees out of jobs, many times they are taking jobs people don't necessarily want or are being designed to work with, not to replace, human counterparts.

JAMES likely won't be slinging drinks at an actual bar anytime soon, but researchers will continue to use the robot to observe and record how he interacts with humans to inform their current and future work, they said.

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