Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

At Hong Kong High-Tech Cafe, Everything Is Served With Microchips

A robot performs pre-programed actions as a chef prepares food in the Robot Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong, 25 September 2006. Photo courtesy of Laurent Fievet and AFP.
by Mark McCord
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 23, 2006
With a whir and a flash of lights, a robot whizzes to the restaurant table and takes a customer's order, while a second races to another table to deliver plates of steaming food. This isn't a scene from a science fiction book. Rather, it's the daily routine at a new diner in a suburban Hong Kong shopping centre.

Robot Kitchen opened in July to cash in on the city's love affair with gadgets, claiming to be the world's first eatery staffed by machines.

"We thought robots would be a good gimmick," said Peter Chow, who built the automatons working at the diner. "Now they have caught on, we are having to upgrade and update them."

At the moment the diner has just two robots -- Robo Waiter 1 and 2 -- neither of which resemble the human-like robots one sees in the movies.

Robo Waiter 1, for instance, is a crudely designed box on wheels covered in shiny paper and with an illuminated bulb to represent a head.

The computer inside can recognise voice patterns, take meal orders and send them by infrared to the cooks in the kitchen.

It is steered by a video camera, which detects objects in its way and guides the robot around them.

Robo Waiter 2 is much the same, but has a tray for carrying food.

A third robot, still in production, will be no more than an articulated electronic arm that can do simple manoeuvres such as flip burgers and prepare omelettes.

Due to the robots' limited abilities, the restaurant has had to hire extra staff to take up the slack and do the actual cooking.

"They definitely aren't labour-saving devices," said Chow. "In fact, we need more staff than normal to keep the machines going."

Chow makes no apologies for the machines' apparent lack of sophistication.

"Many people think robotics have come a long way -- they have in research -- but the commercially available robots are still pretty basic," he said.

Adding to the ambience, meals are given themed, if somewhat clumsy, names in the menu -- a ham and pineapple pizza, for instance, is rechristened "Robot Energetic Pizza" -- and the floor is strewn with toy robots that variously dance and sing or attack customers as they enter.

Former NASA robotics expert Mark Tilden, the creator of the hugely popular Robosapien toy robot, said he admired anyone who tried to make a business out of robots, but warned the going would be tough.

"The problem is that there is a gulf between the technology and people's expectations," Tilden said from his office at Hong Kong-based Wow Wee Toys.

"The technology is there to get robots to do very complicated tasks, but the problem is the people; they expect robots to do so much more than people can do.

"Whenever robots have been put to use in public places, they have been popular for as long as it takes for people to be bored by their narrow functions."

In Robot Kitchen, that day is still far off for two regular young visitors.

"It's like being in Star Wars," said 10-year-old Joey Loh, as he tucked into a special dish billed on the menu as "Robot Protecting the Earth" -- otherwise known as pork ribs and sausage.

"It's exciting and high-tech," agreed his friend Leung Wai-man, also 10. "I feel like I have travelled in time to the future."

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
All about the robots on Earth and beyond!

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Robotic Whisking Seeks Out Spatial Data
Evanstown IL (SPX) Oct 18, 2006
Many mammals use their whiskers to explore their environment and to construct a three-dimensional image of their world. Rodents, for example, use their whiskers to determine the size, shape and texture of objects, and seals use their whiskers to track the fluid wakes of their prey.

  • NASA, Lock-Mart, Boeing to Speak at Phoenix Integration System of Systems Workshop
  • Retrofuture Products Launches Space Food Sticks
  • Firing Room 1 Gets A New Look
  • Ansari Russian Space Tour Wraps Up With Group Snap Shots

  • Preparations Continue For Manned Expedition To Mars One Day
  • Study Fuels Debate Of Life On Mars
  • ESA To Take Part In Russian Mars Experiment
  • How Safe Is Travel To Mars

  • ATK Receives $17.5 Million Contract For CASTOR 120-R Motors
  • Russian Space Co. To Launch At Least 11 Satellites By 2009
  • MetOp Weather Satellite Reaches Polar Orbit
  • European Weather Satellite Pencilled For New Launch Bid

  • Afghanistan Opium Cultivation Monitored By International DMC Constellation
  • Deimos And Surrey Satellite Technology Contract For Spanish Imaging Mission
  • NASA Satellite Data Helps Assess the Health of Florida's Coral Reef
  • Alcatel Alenia Space To Build SIRAL-2 Radar Altimeter For CryoSat-2

  • Scientist Who Found Tenth Planet Discusses The Downgrading Of Pluto
  • New Horizons Spacecraft Snaps Approach Image of the Giant Planet
  • Does The Atmosphere Of Pluto Go Through The Fast-Freeze
  • Surprises From The Edge Of The Solar System

  • Hubble Yields Direct Proof Of Stellar Sorting In A Globular Cluster
  • Busted! Astronomers Nab Culprit In Galactic Hit-and-Run
  • Antennae Galaxies Make For A Fertile Marriage In Stellar Chemistry Writ Large
  • Super Snowballs

  • New Russian Spaceship Will Be Able To Fly To Moon - Space Corp
  • Ice Store At Moon's South Pole Is A Myth
  • No Lunar Polar Ice Sheets Found In High Resolution Radar Images
  • In Space Everyone Can Hear You Misspeak

  • India May Quit EU-led GPS project
  • EU Refuses To Rule Out Military Role For Galileo GPS Network
  • Boeing Delivers Hardware And Completes Software Testing For GPS
  • Flies In A Spider Web: Galaxy Caught In The Making

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement