The robot waiter has arrived! In China. At one restaurant. Yes, the robot waiter has been the promise of the future for decades. But just like humanoid robotics as a whole, it has yet to get past the novelty phase. It's nearly the year 2015 and sadly we're still waiting for robot waiters to go mainstream.
A restaurant at Chunxi Road in Chengdu, China recently unveiled ten robotic waitstaff that can carry dishes to tables and offer simple greetings. But they're sadly no more advanced than the robot waiters of the 1980s — even though they cost over $10,000 a piece.
For example, the Chinese robot waiters above aren't much more sophisticated than the robots at Two Panda Deli in Pasadena, California that could carry food to patrons and blast disco music ...back in 1983.
Or take Ken-chan, the robot waiter at Grazie's Italian restaurant in Tokyo that could sing Happy Birthday and deliver wine ...in 1985.
What are the robot waiters of thirty years later doing? Pretty much the same gig, sadly. Automation in restaurants is taking the form of touchscreens and conveyor belts. But the robot waiter pops up again and again as a mere novelty. Today's robot servers may be a bit smaller and a little cheaper, but they wouldn't be a shock to anyone from the 1980s.
All this begs the question: Why don't we have more robot waiters in U.S. restaurants? Even as a joke? If you had told a kid of the 1980s that in the future all restaurants would have robot waiters, they wouldn't be surprised at all. That's just what was supposed to happen. But I can't think of a single robot restaurant near where I live in Los Angeles. And the 1980s kid in me is seriously bummed about that fact.
We don't have hoverboards, jetpacks or flying cars, all for very practical reasons. But you'd think we'd at least have robot waiters by now.
Images of the robots from China via Getty