The rooftop bartender robot by Makr Shakr & Kuka – Town House Duomo – Piazza Duomo / Milan. (video: Makr Shkr)
The rooftop bartender robot: ice cubes. A shot of rum. Stir in the cola. Preferably add a slice of lime. And voilà: the Cuba Libre is ready. But on the rooftop terrace of the TownHouse Duomo Hotel in Milan, the drink is not mixed by a bartender, but rather by a robot. With “Toni”, a KUKA robot from the KR AGILUS series, visitors can order their drink via app – and then enjoy it freshly prepared a few minutes later. “Toni” merely has a few problems with the small talk…
A robot brings modern technology to life, in a spectacular view of the Milanese life
From the rooftop terrace of the TownHouse Duomo Hotel, you have an impressive view of the cathedral and the roofs of Milan.
It’s not for nothing that the bar here is called “The View”.
But it is not just the view that is spectacular – the service is noteworthy as well.
Because “Toni” the bartender is a robot. The fully automatic bar system was developed by Makr Shakr. The Turin-based company was founded in 2014 and already has more than 70 employees.
It all began with the idea of bringing bar patrons closer to the possibilities of digitalization and automation.
“We wanted to combine our passion for cocktails and design with modern technology,” explains Alessandro Incisa, Chief Technology Officer at Makr Shakr.
The fully automatic bar system is fully equipped: ice dispenser, fruit cutter, brown sugar
“Toni” is a fully automatic robot cell in which state-of-the-art components based on the Internet of Things (IoT) are combined with standardized automation components.
Two KUKA robots from the KR AGILUS series – type KR 10 R1100 and KR 6 R900-2 – share the tasks for preparing the drinks: while one mixes, stirs and shakes, the other shows off cool dance moves and supports during the pouring process.
The two robots are mounted on a counter above which holders for over 150 bottles are mounted. The robot taps these for drink ingredients. In addition to an ice dispenser and a fruit cutter for the lemon or lime garnish, the rear wall of the robot cell also contains a tap for beer, wine and soda.
The robot can even add brown sugar or mint leaves using two portioners. Beyond this, a sink in which the robot rinses out the shaker after each completed order is installed in the rear wall.
Do you know robot programming? No? It is not a problem: simple choose or create your drink via app on your mobile
The bar system is controlled via the KUKA KR C4 controller as well as via a PLC. But guests do not need to be familiar with robot programming.
Ordering is very easy for them: they simply select their drink via an app on their smartphone or tablet. The information is transferred to the robot which then prepares them in the order they are received. Guests are notified via app as soon as their drinks are ready to be picked up at the bar.
The classic alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails are saved in the app’s digital drinks menu. At the same time, there is also the option of using the app to create one’s own drink.
Guests can build their drink by choosing from the full robot bar selection – including the fruit garnish, the amount of ice cubes and the preparation method.
Play, share and taste with the rooftop bartender robot (video: Makr Shkr)
“We invite visitors to play with the robots in a simple manner,” says Alessandro Incisa. Successfully tested creations can later be shared with friends via the cloud connection. “Toni” thus also becomes a communal experience: “Ordering from ‘Toni’ also provides users with an opportunity for social interaction. For example, they can use the app to share recipes with others or post photos on social networks.”
Combination of various technologies required new expertise: robot controller and connection with cloud platform
Combining and coordinating the various technologies together in the robot bar represented the greatest challenge in development for Makr Shakr.
Not merely the robot controller, but also the app were developed especially for the project.
At the same time, a connection to the Kubernetes cloud platform operated by Google also had to be established.
Even the movements of the robot were a challenge: they had to be as similar as possible to the movements of a human bartender. At the same time, however, they did not want to reduce the speed that the robot was capable of. This resulted in the next problem: How to prevent the robot from spilling beverages?
KUKA is the central partner in development of Makr Shakr technology on Milano’s terrace
“During the development of the bar system, Makr Shakr has continuously evolved,” explains Alessandro Incisa. “We have gained the necessary know-how to solve the tasks.”
There were several reasons for choosing a robot from KUKA: the speed, intuitive operation and reliability of the technology were the most important. But aesthetics also played an important role. “KUKA introduced our company to the world of automation and was a central partner for us in the development of the Makr Shakr technology,” says Alessandro Incisa with satisfaction.
“Toni” The rooftop bartender robot, expands the boundaries of interaction between humans and robots
The bar system is of particular interest to caterers or event organizers. It offers various advantages: 24/7 operation is possible with constant quality at all times. Only the ingredients for the drinks need to be manually refilled regularly.
The robot prepares the drinks with maximum precision. Still, even with its perfect mixing technique, the robot cannot keep up with its human counterpart in one area: Makr Shakr’s bar system does expand the boundaries of interaction between humans and robots. Nevertheless, a conversation with the bartender is not (yet) possible.
“Our goal is not to replace human bartenders,” assures Alessandro Incisa. “With ‘Toni’, the focus is on having the guests explore the mixing process and, in doing so, experience a technology that is not typically a part of their daily lives.”
The robot bar in “The View” in Milan has been well received. Guests watch with fascination as “Toni” mixes the drinks. In the future, Makr Shakr plans to expand the possibilities of interaction between the guests and the robot. Beyond this, the company is working on a further innovation: “Guido”, a self-propelled, mobile robot bar, is to soon be making its rounds at street festivals or trade fairs.