Welcome to the world of intelligent dining, where the food sometimes takes a backseat to the tech on display.
If you want a taste of the future, these are the establishments in Asia where you can order, eat and pay without even so much as speak to a human waiter.
Bionic Bar, Royal Caribbean Ovation Of The Seas
When the Royal Caribbean company of cruise liners announced they were building a ship of the future, they certainly weren’t kidding. One of their newest ships, the Ovation of the Seas, is currently making its rounds across ports in China, Japan and South Korea, and the crowning glory of automation on board has got to be the bionic bartending system.
The bartenders on deck are actually two car-manufacturing robots repurposed to create cocktails by a group of researchers at MIT who obviously had their priorities straight. When a drink is ordered from the smart tablet (choose from classic cocktails or create something original), the order appears on a digital panel situated by the bar, and the robots get to work. The mechanical arms move in fluid unison, pulling from an array of 127 bottles hanging above them, adding mixers, stirring, shaking and finally delivering a finished drink down one of four conveyor belts.
Together the robots can make two drinks per minute and it’s almost hypnotic watching them work. The drinks they make aren’t half bad either – our gin and tonic was a little heavy on the gin, but when is that ever a bad thing? Although you probably shouldn’t count on them to listen to your drunken woes and dispense straight-shooting advice.
KFC Original+, Shanghai
We suppose it makes sense that when a fully automated, human-free eatery finally debuted to the mass market, it had to be a fast food joint leading the revolution. KFC has teamed up with Chinese search engine Baidu to let you order fried chicken without having to deal with any cranky, underpaid employees.
Instead, you get to interact with a tiny voice-activated robot named Du Mi who won’t talk back, give you the stink eye or mess up your order. In fact, the bots are designed to be extra cordial and engaging because they’re the first and only line of contact with customers. Little Du Mi can even handle order changes as well as substitutes, so if you want to change three pieces of original recipe chicken in your 8-piece bucket to crispy, and upsize your cola while swapping out the coleslaw for fries, Du Mi’s got you covered. We think. We’re rooting for you Du Mi, please don’t get fired.
The futuristic concept store located at the National Exhibition Convention Center in Shanghai also features wireless charging stations for mobile devices, and allows patrons to stream music as they dine.