China's Robot Restaurant
Old fashioned-looking robots serving drinks. I think R2D2 did it better.

A restaurant in the city of Jinan in China is making international news by employing some unforgettable waiters. The Dalu Robot Restaurant features six custom built robot servers with some that resemble  the classic automatons from 1950s science fiction, and others that are basically wheeled tables. There are also two more feminine robots that greet customers as they enter. While people cook the food, the service bots deliver the meals by “riding” bicycles along a well marked track. Using the combination of human and machine labor, the restaurant can currently serve about 100 customers at a time at 21 different tables. Shandong Dalu Science and Technology Company, which created the restaurant, has plans to expand to 40 machines. You can take a glimpse inside the Dalu Robot Restaurant in the video below. I can’t say they provide much witty banter, but the robots do deliver the food rather well. Do you think they expect a tip?

The Dalu Robot Restaurant may be cool-looking but it’s far from a technological innovation. Take away the gold-painted foam exteriors of the robotic wait staff and you basically just have a fancier form of an automat. It all comes down to presentation, really. In that regard I think the Dalu is a bit lacking. The robots aren’t exceptionally well articulated, and they don’t really do much besides ride around. At the Hajime Restaurant in Bangkok, robot servers will actually dance and sing for customers. Of course, I shouldn’t be too hard on the Shandong Dalu Science and Tech Company’s first venture into robotic eateries. Their robots are custom built while the Hajime adapted world class Motoman SD-10s. Maybe the additional robots they hope to add will be able to perform a greater variety of services, and come in a more exciting appearance. Of course, I’m not from Jinan. Maybe the 1950s robot look is really chic there. In either case, I should just be glad that the count of robot restaurants is actually climbing. The robotic pleasure barges I was promised long long ago still seem far far away.

China's Robot Restaurant has greeters
Welcome to the Uncanny Valley...er, I mean the Dalu Robot Restaurant.

[image credits: News.cn/Cui Janshi, eChinacities.com]

[sources: OddityCentral, PeopleDaily]