No, you’re not blind drunk

The Strip re­ally has ro­bot bar­tenders. But don’t ex­pect any small talk.

Los Angeles Times - - NEWS - with David Mon­tero david.mon­tero @la­times.com Twit­ter: @dav­e­mon­tero

They will make your drinks, but they won’t listen to your prob­lems. Ro­bot bar­tenders have made their way to the Las Ve­gas Strip — ev­i­dence per­haps that Skynet is closer to be­com­ing self­aware and will have a con­ve­nient place to take the edge off.

Bar owner Rino Ar­meni swears this isn’t yet an­other move to re­place hu­man be­ings.

“No, no, no,” he said gamely and with a laugh. “It’s en­ter­tain­ment — like the Bel­la­gio foun­tains.” Though, it should be noted, the foun­tains have not joined the la­bor force and been re­trained to be­come, say, baris­tas. Yet.

The Tipsy Ro­bot opened last month in­side the Mir­a­cle Mile Shops next to Planet Hol­ly­wood Casino, squeez­ing its way onto the Las Ve­gas Strip along with a roller coaster atop a tower, repli­cas of iconic world land­marks and a 24-7 world of gam­bling, booze and quirk­i­ness. It cel­e­brates the weird, the new and the now. To­mor­row is strictly for the hang­over.

The fu­tur­is­tic set­ting in­side the Tipsy Ro­bot feels like a mash-up of a bar, Ap­ple Store and car man­u­fac­tur­ing plant. The cen­ter­piece of the wa­ter­ing hole is the two bar­tender ro­bots af­fixed to a stage-like bar. They are white, mech­a­nized assem­bly-line arms mov­ing with jerky flu­id­ity.

Above the ro­bots, liquor bot­tles hang up­side down like hum­ming­bird feed­ers, and the steel arms whirl, twirl and stretch up­ward to let the al­co­holic nectar flow down into the mixer with pre­ci­sion be­fore pour­ing the mixed drink and then place it onto a grooved slat.

The fin­ished prod­uct is then slowly slid to the edge of the bar — al­ready forgotten as the ro­botic arm moves to the next or­der on the al­co­hol assem­bly line.

Sarah Thatcher sat in front of the smart tablet used to place or­ders and looked over the drink op­tions. The 24-year-old said she was a sim­ple girl — Guin­ness was her drink of choice — but a “ga­lac­tic am­bas­sador,” who was de­cid­edly hu­man, ex­plained that the ro­bots didn’t pour beer. That pedes­trian task was left to a per­son who stood alone on the other side of the bar and oc­ca­sion­ally glanced over at the ma­chines.

Thatcher looked at the ro­bots, which stared back im­pas­sively. Wait­ing.

“I’m not that great with tech­nol­ogy,” she said. “It’s kind of weird. I’m a mil­len­nial, but I don’t even have mu­sic on my phone.”

The of­fer­ings in­cluded spe­cialty drinks named Bi­nary Berry, Mr. Roboto and Cos­mic Cu­cum­ber. She scrolled through bright screens. House and dance mu­sic pumped through the speak­ers. A crowd of peo­ple stood out­side the bar in a mall thor­ough­fare and took video and pic­tures of the ro­bots with smart­phones.

Michael Beanes, a 29year-old wear­ing a cow­boy hat and faded Iron Maiden T-shirt and sport­ing a pierced lip, said drink­ing in there made him feel a bit like be­ing an an­i­mal in a zoo.

The ro­bots cer­tainly draw the cu­ri­ous, but per­haps in time, like so much in Ve­gas, they will be­come rou­tine.

Ar­meni praised the au­to­mated arms, say­ing they didn’t call in sick, and didn’t need lunch breaks, smoke breaks or take va­ca­tions. But the Tipsy Ro­bot de­layed its open­ing by a few days be­cause of com­puter glitches. He shrugged. Tech­nol­ogy isn’t per­fect, he said.

Jor­dan Davidson, a ga­lac­tic am­bas­sador, said the two ro­bots did have a few lim­i­ta­tions. They can’t salt a glass rim for a mar­garita and can’t add gar­nishes — though she thought those things may be pos­si­ble in the fu­ture.

Thatcher had been try­ing to make her own cus­tom­ized drink, but af­ter adding all the ice, liquor and some fla­vored ad­di­tions, the smart tablet flashed “er­ror mes­sage.”

“A real per­son would never say ‘er­ror mes­sage,’ ” she said. “But they might be rude about it too.”

A ga­lac­tic am­bas­sador came to the res­cue. Thatcher swiped her fin­ger across the smart tablet again, un­sure if she’d end up with a drink, a date or a car door. The ro­bot went to work. She was able to watch her name on a large screen as it flashed the sta­tus of her or­der — like the ar­rival and de­par­ture mon­i­tors at an air­port. Davidson said a lot of peo­ple didn’t put their real names on the screen. Some choose ob­scen­i­ties, but in this brave new world, the tech­nol­ogy made no moral judg­ments.

The drink was ready in min­utes and she went to pick it up. Next to one of the ro­bots sat a tip jar. Davidson said the hu­mans get to share the tips. The ro­bots don’t. They’ve never com­plained. Yet.

Thatcher headed back to her stool with her drink. It was a Long Is­land iced tea. She took a sip. It was strong. She si­mul­ta­ne­ously smiled and winced.

“Like rocket fuel,” she said.

But she didn’t stick around. Most peo­ple don’t. The bar isn’t re­ally suited for sit­ting and gab­bing, as there is lit­tle ta­ble space at each or­der­ing sta­tion, where the smart tablets dom­i­nate. Also, the stools don’t face one an­other.

In a city where liquor can be con­sumed in pub­lic, it does seem to have a drinkand-go vibe. Or­der. Watch the ro­bots. Ques­tion mankind’s place in the world. Leave.

So far, the two ro­bots don’t have names, but — low­er­ing his voice in front of them — Ar­meni sug­gested they might be re­placed by a sin­gle ro­bot with mul­ti­ple arms that can make drinks faster any­way. Call it elec­tronic evo­lu­tion 2.0. Take a drink, Charles Dar­win. Maybe make it a dou­ble.

David Mon­tero Los An­ge­les Times

BARKEEPS at the Tipsy Ro­bot in Las Ve­gas. The bar’s owner praised the au­to­mated arms, say­ing they don’t call in sick and don’t need breaks or va­ca­tions.

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