Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Can a country with large population and high unemployment rate accept a technology that makes humans redundant? Obviously China seems to be taking a conscious decision that in some areas of service Robots are preferable to humans as reflected by the recent opening of a restaurant in that country where food service is managed entirely by these mechanical contraptions. What is amazing is that the customers have accepted this mode of service without any reservation, at least for the time being. According to catering experts Robots enjoy several advantages over their human counterparts like uniformity of service, tirelessness, non-moody approach, no tipping, "personal" hygiene, disease free nature etc. As a Robot hardly costs about $6000 and does not need too much of a recurring expenditure, the profitability margin can go up dramatically.

"The restaurant opened just a month ago, but is already creating a buzz across the globe as it provides droids to deliver food and service to customers without taking a tip. But the biggest advantage, Li Xiaomei, a customer at the restaurant, told the Associated Press' Ken Teh, it's the robots' attitude. "They have a better service attitude than humans," said Li. "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." The technology is relatively simple: the robots move around the tables on a rotating conveyor belt placed in the middle of the eatery, using motion-sensor technology to identify humans. The robots sit on wheels, giving the appearance of riding a bicycle around the room with a basket in front carrying the food. When a customer reaches out to grab something, the robot stops The droids also double as greeters and entertainers, giving dance routines and welcoming new customers".

What is not sure is whether these Robots can sustain the interest of the consumers, especially when they revisit the place because of the "monotony" factor. Attractive servers with amiable temperament often attract customers and if the attitude and behavior are impeccable no Robot will ever be able to compete with them. In an age when recorded voices are substituting live human voice in many parts of the world, making eating also a mechanical experience may be a little too far-fetched. But with human cost mounting astronomically during the last few years, it may be inevitable that the industry as a whole opt for Robots to cut down on cost. It is a paradox that the unemployment rate in many countries is attaining unbearable levels while development of Robotic technology in many fields will make human intervention infructuous! It is understandable that operations considered dangerous to health are best left to the Robots, but restaurants opting for Robots for food service purely from commercial considerations can have adverse social consequences.


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