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Bartending Robot Can Tell If a Customer Wants a Drink or Is Just Standing Around

Using videos of thirsty customers lining up for bar-side drinks, they created algorithm equivalents for "I want a drink" body language

The bartending robot James is here to serve. Photo: fortiss GmbH

Bartenders are a pretty adept bunch. Their job success depends upon accurately reading their customers, whether that means knowing when to make small talk, offering another round at an opportune moment or determining when a boozy patron has had enough. The best bartenders can even judge a person’s body language to distinguish between when someone is standing around, anxious to order another drink, and when they’re just hanging out at the bar.

Now, researchers hope to bestow a robot bartender with that mind-reading ability. Using videos of thirsty customers lining up for bar-side drinks, they created algorithm equivalents for “I want a drink” body language. UPI reports on the findings:

Surprisingly to customers, though perhaps not to bartenders, researchers found that waving or gesturing is not the way to get attention at the bar.

Only one in fifteen customers looked at their wallets to signal that they would like to place an order. Fewer than one in twenty-five customers gestured at the bartender.

The most common and successful signals were more subtle. More than 90 percent of customers positioned themselves right up against the bar counter, facing the counter or the bartender.

People who were just hanging out at the bar, on the other hand, largely avoided that front-facing, look-at-me position.

The researchers programmed a robot named James to recognize these cues, then put him to the serving test. So far, James can recognize key ready-to-order body signals, politely ask customers “How can I help you?,” and talk to people in a first-come, first serve order. While James still hasn’t been programmed to make a mean martini, if The Fifth Element is any predictor, we can look forward to a future where robot bartenders are always available and know exactly when “you want some more.”

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