Small Wonder: Robot Waiters Come to China
In this May 9, 2012 photo shows actress Lindsay Lohan at the A&E Networks 2012 Upfront at Lincoln Center in New York. Lohan will star as Elizabeth Taylor in the upcoming Lifetime TV movie "Liz & Dick." On Friday June 15, Lohan's publicist Steve Honig said the actress was treated for dehydration and exhaustion after an overnight film shoot, but did not require a trip to the hospital and would likely resume shooting later Friday. (AP Photo/Starpix, Kristina Bumphrey, file) / Kristina Bumphrey
The restaurant, which opened this month in Jinan in northern Shandong province, is touted as China's first robot hotpot eatery where robots resembling Star Wars droids circle the room carrying trays of food in a conveyor belt-like system.
More than a dozen robots operate in the restaurant as entertainers, servers, greeters and receptionists. Each robot has a motion sensor that tells it to stop when someone is in its path so customers can reach for dishes they want.
The service industry in China has not always kept up with the country's rapid economic growth, and can be quite basic in some restaurants, leading customers in the Dalu restaurant to praise the robots.
"They have a better service attitude than humans," said Li Xiaomei, 35, who was visiting the restaurant for the first time.
"Humans can be temperamental or impatient, but they don't feel tired, they just keep working and moving round and round the restaurant all night," Li said.
Inspired by space exploration, robot technology and global innovation, the restaurant's owner, Zhang Yongpei, said he hopes his restaurant will show the world China is a serious competitor in developing technology.
"I hope this new concept shows that China is forward-thinking and innovative," Zhang said.
As customers enter the dimly lit restaurant lined with blinking neon lights to simulate a futuristic environment, a female robot decorated with batting eyelashes greets people with an electronic "welcome."
During the meal, crowds of up to 100 customers, are entertained by a dancing and talking robot that looks more like a mannequin with a dress, flapping its arms around in a stiff motion.
Zhang said he hopes to roll out 30 robots - which cost $6,000 each - in the coming months and eventually develop robots with human-like qualities that serve customers at their table and can walk up and down the stairs.
Popular in SciTech
- iPhone 5S and low-cost iPhone said to be multicolored
- Android 4.3 pops up in the wild after skipping Google I/O
- Apple's next iPhone may be coming in June
- Delta 4 rocket boosts military comsat into orbit
- NYC tech tour: Foursquare, BuzzFeed, MakerBot Play Video
- Can a floating robot save a polluted canal?
- New Flickr comes with 1 terabyte free storage
- Ashton Kutcher on Twitter: "Media kind of f***ed it up"