MIT Hires a Robot Bartender


Researchers at MIT have invented a robot bartender and waiters to bring them ice-cold beers as they work. It might sound like a collegiate stunt from 1985’s Real Genius, but the project serves a scientific purpose: Not only do the robots deliver cans of frosty Yuengling to thirsty researchers, but they also make real-time decisions about the best way to do their job.

Uproxx explains that, instead of following a set list of instructions, “the robots have to decide for themselves what they should be doing, without knowing what other robots in the group are doing.” The robot waiters look like little more than coolers on wheels (the researchers refer to them collectively as “TurtleBots”), but they can make pretty complex decisions. Not only can Ninja Turtles-inspired waiter bots “Raphael” and “Leonardo” take orders and prioritize tasks, but they follow an almost human logic: for example, if no one wants a beer, the robot will check in on the next office. 

MIT’s robot research has implications that go beyond advanced bartending. For example, decision-making robots that can complete complex tasks would be extremely useful in industrial or factory settings.

The entire robot study is available to read online [PDF]. Though it’s nearly unintelligible without a science background, there’s something endearing about reading sentences like “While Leonardo is served by the PR2, Raphael goes to the bar and observes the PR2 is busy,” or “TurtleBot asserted it was holding a drink.”