Across China, Japan and Thailand, robots are being used as waiters. The robot on the left is Yumbo – the latest model from Thailand. It can carry trays through a restaurant using infra-red cameras, avoid collisions using ultrasonics, meet and greet customers with one of its many expressions and take orders using voice recognition technology.
Yumbo is yet to be released, but is not expected to cost that much (the model that came before Yumbo cost $30,000). With a low price tag, and with the functionality promised in the promotional video below, it seems likely that automated waiters could catch on.
CT Asia Robotics, the company that has developed Yumbo, believes that there is an huge potential market for robot waiters, and they have already had a large order from a major Thai restaurant chain.
The company has ambitions to become a major player in the commercial robotics industry, and has already started work on robots designed to help the elderly and teach children.
But they are only one of many companies designing robot waiters. One restaurant in China uses a fleet of seven robots to serve customers, and the owner has ambitions to increase the amount to 30 robot ‘employees’.
I don’t imagine robot waiters reaching our shores anytime soon. And when they do they will only be used as gimmicks in themed restaurants. But if a robot waiter becomes cheaper and easier to maintain than their human counterpart – then it would make business sense to turn them from a gimmick into a key part of corporate strategy.