AI Developers Take Note: The Bartender of the Future Will Probably Be a Robot

bartender of the futureAnyone who likes going out to bars or restaurants knows they can get crowded. Bartenders don’t always have the time to take every order. Sometimes, they’re simply new to the job and struggle to stay on top of each customer’s request; this can make it difficult to get a drink.

As technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to improve, these types of problems may become less common. We’ve already reached the stage where AI assistants can play music for you, turn appliances on or off, and set cooking timers. It’s possible that one day your bartender could even be a machine.

At least, that’s the concept behind Niq, a project from the developers at one digital creative agency.

The Creation of Niq

Each year, this digital experience agency holds a “Hackathon,” during which developers step away from their major projects to work on the ideas that excite them and demonstrate the power of emerging technologies. In 2016, the result was Kontrol, an app for Tesla vehicles. In 2017, the team created Niq.

This prototype takes the form of a basic bartending station. Thanks to a combination of cutting edge technologies, Niq can take orders, recommend drinks, recognize old customers, and make jokes. As the video above shows, Niq can even pour drinks, making it a truly practical concept for restaurants and bars. Best of all, you don’t have to click a single button to use Niq: It responds to voice commands.

According to Senior Project Manager Steven McMurray, “Tapping buttons is just so old school…. We built this as a proof of concept to show how the marriage of technologies such as machine learning, computer vision, artificial intelligence, IoT… will come together to create amazing user experiences in the near future.”

Although the finished product seems (and is) remarkably sophisticated, McMurray worked with a relatively small team, only consisting of two designers, two engineers, and the head of recruiting for the agency. Thus, Niq not only demonstrates what AI tech is capable of, but also what a fairly small group of people can achieve when they focus on efficient, agile development techniques.

What Makes Niq Work

Again, Niq relies on many different technologies to function. In order to recognize customers, Niq is equipped with Microsoft vision facial verification. To take orders or respond to commands, Siri translates voice to text, so Niq’s AI can more easily interpret the request.

Users don’t actually speak to the bartending station itself when placing orders. Instead, they speak into a connected mobile device, like a tablet. An app then relays the order to the bartending station via bluetooth technology, and the station pours the appropriate mixture of ingredients for the drink.

Niq is designed to learn your preferences in the same way an actual bartender would. Every time a new user orders a drink, that information is stored in Niq’s memory. In the future, returning users may get recommendations based on their previous orders.

At this stage, Niq is just a prototype that serves to illustrate what this type of product may be able to do. However, future iterations will be far more consumer-friendly.

Potential Uses

Although the idea of a robotic bartender may seem like science fiction, in reality it’s highly likely these types of products will be common in the near future. As the data below indicates, experts in the technology industry believe that innovations like machine learning and the Internet of Things are poised to have a major impact on customer experiences over the next several years.

emerging technology adoption plans and CX impact

This has major implications not only for consumers, but for business owners as well. Obviously, a product like Niq offers tremendous advantages to bar owners.

Instead of hiring extra help to assist  during busier times of year, they can install Niq units to ensure all customers receive their orders promptly and efficiently. As AI tech continues to improve, there’s a good chance that machines like Niq will even be able to check photo IDs to confirm that customers are of legal drinking age.

Again, you’ve probably been in a situation when a bartender was too overwhelmed with other customers to take your order. Wouldn’t you like to go to a bar with friends, knowing no matter how crowded it is, there will always be a “bartender” available?

Outside of bars, these types of machines will simply make life easier for the average consumer. Products similar to Niq could make more than just cocktails. They might be able to mix or prepare ingredients for meals, helping busy people cook more efficiently. The possibilities for this type of system are endless.

That’s why organizations across a wide range of industries should begin to investigate how these technologies can benefit them. Bar owners can save money with Niq. Kitchen device manufacturers might offer their customers a greater degree of convenience. Innovations like AI and machine learning may even allow hospitals to treat more patients than ever before, thanks to robot nurses that can check vitals and perform basic tests.

Again, it might sound like science fiction, but it’s closer than you think. As industry experts have proven, these technologies are now so powerful that, when combined with human creativity, they can deliver the products of the future today.