FAKE NEWS | Useless Robot Bartender Replaces No Human Bartenders
LAS VEGAS – The rise of automation has upended the job market, as artificial intelligence takes on more and more tasks previously performed by humans. Every year, many anxious workers see the relentless march of technology and wonder if they’ll be replaced next.
But this is not the case in Robotobar, a trendy new bar on the Las Vegas Strip. This establishment is quite a novelty: customers place their orders on smart tablet menus, which are then conveyed to the “bartender,” two robotic arms which mix the drinks and place them on the counter. Despite this, however, human bartenders play a vital role at Robotobar.
“When I first saw this robot, I worried that technology like this would make human bartenders obsolete,” said Josh Connor, one of the bartenders at Robotobar. “I soon realized my fears were unfounded.”
Connor said the robot bartender frequently gets orders wrong and knocks stuff over. “Sometimes it pours liquid out of bottles, except the glass underneath is misaligned and so it goes all over the counter. And sometimes it starts breaking stuff for, like, no reason. I have to be watching it the whole time.”
It’s not difficult to see why. As we spoke, one of the robotic arms at the bar jerked spasmodically, before swinging around, knocking over a glass.
“See what I mean?” said Connor.
Robotobar’s owner, Vijay Reddy, said he doesn’t believe artificial intelligence will replace humans. Instead, it will work together with humans, complementarily, each one doing things the other cannot do.
“For example, at Robotobar, the robot bartender and the human bartender are a team,” he said. “The robot gimmick attracts customers, most of whom have never seen a robot bartender before. Meanwhile, the human bartender supervises: keeping customers away from the flailing robotic arms, making sure the robot doesn’t mess up, and cleaning up and mixing drinks by hand when it does mess up, which happens frequently.”
Reddy also said the robot bartender could only make simple cocktails. “Once, we tried to get it to make a Bloody Mary. Instead, it went haywire and started mixing five different alcohols together. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought to myself: ‘This will either be disgusting or genius.’
“It was disgusting,” he said.
“To be honest, with the more complex drinks, we usually get another bartender in the back to make it, who then passes it to the robot to give to customers. Customers are so excited to be given drinks by the robot,” Reddy laughed. “Rubes.”
In addition to Connor and the other bartender, who hides behind the bar, Robotobar employs a full-time technician, to fix the robotic arms when they malfunction and the smart tablet menus when they glitch, which they often do.
But how do other bartenders feel about this? Sarah Shelley, president of UNITE HERE Local 165, a bartenders’ union in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, said that when union members first heard about the introduction of robot bartenders to the city, they planned to protest against it. But they changed their minds when they saw how the robot at Robotobar worked.
“As you can see, for every one of those robot bartenders they need to hire, like, three people to manage it,” she said. “So each of these robots creates three jobs. We hope lots of other bar owners install them!”
Of course, many new technologies have teething problems, before gradually improving and becoming dominant. Are robot bartenders the future of the profession?
“Well-” said Connor, before being interrupted by the sound of shattering glass as the robot bartender knocked over a bottle of scotch.
“…no,” he said, grabbing a mop to clean up. “No.”