Before robots become our overlords, they'll have to be our servants first. And serve our hungry fellowmen is what those piles of steel and wires will do in Robo Cafe, a concept restaurant where human waiters have been replaced by an entirely mechanized workforce. Yay, no more service tips!
Korean company ITM Technology (whose expertise lies in military robotics and weapons - makes you queasy, doesn't it?) designed the system from the ground up, starting with a restaurant interior that makes it easy for their table service robots to navigate. Platforms will be set up around the sides, where the wheeled 70-centimeter tall table servers can make their way to individual guests.
The robots have been rendered intentionally cute, complete with a digital smiling face. Customers can either verbally give their orders or choose them from a touchscreen display on the chest. Once the food is ready, the robots can then be assigned to take it to the corresponding table directly from the kitchen.
Sure, it sounds like a novel idea, minimizing the workforce to a barebones operation. Sucks when you like getting some banter going with hot waitresses, though. Even worse, how the hell are you supposed to give them a piece of your mind when you're in the mood to complain? Should you yell at the smiling droids?
Honestly, Robo Cafe sounds like it could have been implemented years ago (it's not that ultra-super-high-tech). I have a feeling hiring humans for minimum wage work (as with waiting on tables) remains a cheaper option, though, which is why we're sticking with it. So why does it seem more feasible now?
In Japan, a severe labor shortage is expected soon, as a good bulk of its workforce becomes too old to work (the same reason why there's so many products being debuted for old people there). With the availability of human workers cut down, the robots are going to have to pick up some of the slack. These guys look like they'll really fit the bill.