Just when you thought Tokyo couldn’t get any more futuristic, the city’s subway system has a new robot bartender serving up drinks to commuters.
The Daily Mail reported this week that the Yoronotaki company has launched the Zeroken Robo Tavern in the Ikebukuro train station. The small pop-up opened on Jan. 23 and will run as a pilot to gauge customer reaction to the concept until March 19th.
The robot itself is just an articulating arm with an LED face. Customers enter their order via separate kiosk and then the robot whirrs into action, pouring out a beer in 40 seconds, or mixing up a cocktail for something a little stronger.
The robot is made by QBIT Robotics, which also built the Henn Na robot barista, also in Tokyo. The robot costs $82,000, which is evidently three years’ salary for an average bartender in Japan. Yoronotaki told the Daily Mail that labor shortages in Japan are part of the reason it is trying the robot out.
Japan has a greying population with more than one-third of its people over the age of 65. Many companies are working on robotic solutions to help stave off any potential labor crisis. Sony has teamed up with Carnegie-Mellon University to create food robots and has big ambitions for a robotic home cooking assistant. Connected Robots, which makes the takoyaki-cooking Octochef robot, raised raised a ¥850M ($7.8 million USD) last year to expand its food robot lineup. And in 2018, the Dawn Avatar cafe used robot servers that were operated remotely by people with disabilities.
Given how small the retail spaces in Japan can be, and the volume of people that travel Tokyo’s subway system, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing more robot bartenders pop up across Japan.