Robot arm lends hand at drink vendor
Shanghai's first robotically enhanced cafe and cocktail bar has been given the go-ahead to operate by the Huangpu District market authorities.
At Ratio, located inside the K11 shopping center, customers order via an app and are then served by a robotic arm. Coffee preparation and drink mixing are also handled by machine.
The mechanical appendage can cover 70 percent of human work, according to the establishment's operator.
The Ratio is the first business of its kind in Shanghai. More than 60 drinks are on its menu, including the latte for 28 yuan and the cappuccino for 31 yuan.
As the project was just getting off the ground, technical experts with the cafe entered consultations regarding consumer safety and service with the Huangpu District Market Supervision and Management Bureau.
As no similar establishment exists to serve as a reference point, bureau officials held numerous meetings with the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration on how to support this new venture. The bureau also provided suggestions on how to prevent food safety risks and machine accidents.
The Ratio serves coffee during the day and cocktails at night. On average, its machines can serve a cocktail in 90 seconds. It can also produce two lattes in an equal amount of time, according to owners.
"We conducted several thousand tests on grabbing different types of glasses by the robotic arm, because grabbing glasses is much more difficult than paper cups," said Gavin Pathross, who opened the café. "Many times, the glasses were broken during the tests."
"We want to relieve staff from repetative work and spend more time in developing new recipes and helping consumers pick the best ratio of drinks and the best flavor," he said.
On the cafe's app, consumers can customize their order by selecting the ratio of coffee beans, milk and sweetness.
"At the same time, the use of machines also ensures that the coffee and cocktails we serve are standardized," said Gavin Pathross.
"Rather than tasting the coffee, I am more interested in watching how the arm prepares drinks," said Angela Li, a nearby office worker.
"The process is fun and efficient as I get my coffee more quickly than at traditional chain cafes," she said.