Using robots, a team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has solved an ancient problem: needing another beer but not wanting to stand up and get it. Two small Turtlebots (which look like coolers on wheels) travel between a beer-providing PR2 robot bartender and rooms of students at work, asking the students if they need a beer and then returning with a beverage if one is ordered.
Bartending is a good task to demonstrate machine teamwork: the waiterbots each check in with a room full of humans, asking if there is a need they can meet. Then the machines roll back, picking up the supplies required from the coordinating robot in the middle. This has uses beyond bartending. MIT sees it as a potential system for hospitals or rescue work, and it’s easy to imagine the same robots that here dispense beer instead taking orders for water bottles and crackers at an emergency shelter.
That’s a major distinction from other bartending robots, which tend to focus more on specialized drink preparation than maximum drink dispersal. As seen in the video below, this bartending team mainly just takes orders for beer in cans and then delivers cans of beer. MIT’s robot team won’t be headlining any fancy cocktail parties, but could ably staff a low-key dive. Which, after a long day spent making robots fetch beers, is all anyone really needs, anyway.
Watch the robot bartending team in action below: