Converting a university into laboratory into a beer bar with robots working as bartenders and servers seems like a college student’s fantasy come true. Or it could be another practical joke at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
This lab with beer and robots, however, is serious. The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) conducts experiments with bots that can take orders and deliver beer in unpredictable environments, like bars where people are sitting, standing and moving.
Of course, these robots were not created just to serve beer. “The beer delivery problem was designed [to represent] many real-world problems that teams of robots would have to face,” according to Chris Amato, a former CSAIL postdoc and lead author of the team’s Robotics Science and Systems Conference (RSS) paper.
In other words, they have another destiny. Although they’re delivering beer now, the Beerbots are prototypes for robots that can do important jobs like helping hospital staff care for patients. Also, because the Beerbots are programmed to deal with challenging surroundings, researchers hope they will have a critical role in delivering medicine, equipment and aid amid the confusion and danger of disaster situations.
In the recently submitted RSS paper, the team explained that “What makes the system of three ‘Beerbot’ robots—a two-armed ‘bartender’ and two, two-wheeled ‘waiters’ outfitted with beer-coolers—most impressive is that they’re capable of collaborating to deliver drinks quickly, accurately and, furthermore, in unpredictable environments.” Sounds like these Beerbots earn their tips.