With a pilot that could usher in a new era of technology as stores and restaurants grapple with hiring in an aging country, the first robotic bartender in Japan has started to serve drinks in a Tokyo bar. The robot offers beverages in an establishment operated by the Yoronotaki restaurant firm, Reuters reported.
Testing of the robotic bartender will take two months. After that time period, Yoronotaki will analyze the test results. “We hope it’s a solution,” said Yoshio Momiya, a Yoronotaki manager.
The robot, for its part, can prepare a cocktail in one minute and can pour a beer in 40 seconds.
QBIT Robotics is the creator of the robot, which has four cameras to make sense of customer expressions through artificial intelligence (AI) software. The robot’s price is roughly equivalent to employing a human bartender for three years.
As the report noted, it could become more difficult to find workers in the future. Firms may encounter labor shortages among an aging and shrinking population. Service companies that don’t have the ability to move internationally or tap into automation have greater vulnerability than industrial companies. Japan foresees a shortfall of 380,000 workers by 2025 in just the healthcare sector alone.
The news comes as news surfaced last year that Uniqlo is undertaking a $917 million upgrade that will ultimately make it the most automated retailer in the world, with a logistics support staff that will be approximately 90 percent robotic.
The project began when the brand announced that its flagship warehouse location in the Ariake section of Tokyo was 90 percent robotic and could operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The only job remaining for human staffers was the surprisingly complicated work of picking and packing items for shipping – and automating even that job is still an active work in process, per news at the time.