By Mudassir Raja
The product of the human brain has escaped the control of human hands. This is the comedy of science. These are well-known lines from Karel Capek’s R.U.R, a 1920 science fiction play.
Robots are a creation of human brain that has actually escaped the human hands. Robots are swiftly replacing humans in different fields in recent times. Hospitality and food sector is one such area where robots are being used to replace humans predominantly as waiters.
The trend is more obvious in the western countries and in countries like Japan and China. However, Qatar has been no exception to the trend. Canaan Gardens is a well-known restaurant at Hyatt Plaza, and it has now introduced first ever robot waiter in Qatar.
Emy is a robot waitress serving her valued customers at the spacious restaurant. The mechanical waitress has become more of an attraction than a serving machine. The visitors are amazed when they see the moving robot forcing them to make video of Emy.
Ibrahim Quttan, an Egyptian in charge of the restaurant, believes that the robot waitress has so far been a success.
“Emy was made especially for our restaurant. We received the robot some six months ago. After we got Emy, we scanned our floor so that the robot can go anywhere in the restaurant, following the order she receives. If we direct it to go and serve the table no 1, she will follow the orders exactly.
“We keep moving and readjusting our dining tables in the restaurant. Emy follows the sensors to reach the specific place. As she is slow in its speed, some customers feel uncomfortable. So, we have started operating it manually and have increased its speed.”
Ibrahim, who has background in hospitality field, further said: “We got Emy custom made for us from China. She only serves. The staff will place the food items on her tray and she will carry the food to the selected table. Once she is done with service, the customer has to touch one of her hand making her to go back to her place. She even utters the pre-recorded words like “please take your food” etc. We have recorded the words in English. We also have the option of recording the words in Arabic language.”
Emy has mainly been a source of attraction for the customers, especially children. Ibrahim said: “It is entertaining for the kids to see Emy walking around. The robot has a USB port. We can play and record whatever audio or video we want. Recently, we had a birthday party. We downloaded some birthday songs and she sang the song for the children.
“I took the initiative mainly to attract visitors. She has done the best for us. She has managed to pull customers. Last week, we had an event called ‘Little Chef’ when kids cooked their pizzas. The kids really enjoyed the event with Emy.”
The restaurant management prefers Emy to serve the starters and the desserts. “My staff is very happy with Emy. They sometime complain that she is too slow. When the restaurant is full of people, we found it difficult to operate Emy. Often, I give Emy’s control to the kids so that they can enjoy her movements. We put Emy into action mostly in the evenings.”
Ibrahim, who has been in the hospitality industry for nine years, sees the trend of robot waiters growing in the coming times. “I have come to know that there is one fully robotic and automated hotel in China. The robots are invading the market rapidly. People are trying to take advantage of the technology.
“The trend will soon find its feet in Qatar. Some restaurants do have some speaking robots when they are not for service. In near future, it does not seem possible that the robots will take over humans as waiters in Qatar. It may be possible once the people really start trusting the robots. As far as the communication abilities are concerned, humans are better than robots. Robots only follow instructions. They cannot replace humans, for now. The robots are only meant for specific tasks. I use Emy for attracting customers.”
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