Wednesday, March 6, 2013

This Open Source Robot Bartender Pours the Perfect Mix – Wired

Drown your sorrows digitally with the Bartendro drink-mixing robot.

Bartenders beware: A robotic drink-dispensing rig is aiming to steal your customers while pouring cocktail creations at the push of a touchscreen button. Its creators call it Bartendro.

Operated through an iPad interface, the open source, synthetic Al Swearengen holds up to 15 bottles of beverage plumbed into custom-designed, Raspberry Pi-controlled pumps. It’s capable of mixing dozens of drinks, including black Russians, Kahlua mudslides, or almost any other classy beverage of your choosing.

Machine takes 15 liquids. Touchscreen interface. Uses peristaltic pumps.
Drink list is populated automatically based on liquids loaded into the machine.

The combination of technical utility and hackerspace aesthetics would make this a perfect accessory in the Mos Eisley cantina, which isn’t far from Bartendro’s actual roots in the dusty fields of Burning Man. Pierre Michael and Robert Kaye worked on projects for that desert gathering for years before being inspired by the concept of microcontroller-based liquid dispensing. Party Robotics was born, and tech conference parties may never be the same.

As simple as the concept seems it’s actually the result of a lot of R&D. The team developed a custom dispensing board that uses the same processor as the Arduino and is controlled by the Raspberry Pi. The physical design is built around peristaltic pumps, which can dispense precise amounts of liquid and are often used in exacting medical applications. When the cost of using off-the-shelf parts became too expensive, Michael, formerly an engineer at iRobot, started machining a new, lower-cost design.

“The most challenging part was figuring out how to dispense liquids to be consumed in a safe and sanitary manner,” says Michael. “We started with valves and flow meters that always retained residue in the crevices even after cleaning. We tried iteration after iteration of peristaltic pumps of our own design, but they just weren’t satisfactory.”

They eventually found a Japanese company that could supply an appropriate pump, but sourcing cost-effective and food-safe tubes was another challenge. The team had to soak the tubes in wine and cranberry juice for weeks until they found one that wouldn’t yellow. Then there was the challenge of writing code to control this mechanical Sam Malone — though software testing has never been more fun.

“We built our first full bot in 2009, then proceeded to build four more designs from the ground up,” says Michael. “It was an obsession, and a race to find the best and cleanest solution. We used to have inverted liquids, in custom containers at first, then in their own bottles.” The current iteration is the most elegant yet, relying on an array of pumps to transfer the liquids from bottles sitting on a countertop.

Anyone care for a cybernetic cocktail?

The Party Robotics team is trying to raise funds to put the Bartendro into production, but the hardware and software information files are available on Github. The team is even suggesting some fun hacks they’d like to see. Using a Kinect or breathalyzer to detect if a guest at a party has been over served would make the product safer, but a shaker module for martinis would make it epic.

For those who prefer to avoid working with code to build their own, buying a setup doesn’t come cheap — a single liquor ShotBot is $299, a three-liquid version costs $699, a seven-pump system is $1,499, and the 15-pump dispenser will run up a tab of $2,999, although there are discounts for early backers. While priced outside the budget of most man-caves, the Party Robotics team believes that they have an opportunity to serve the established bar market.

“We’re thinking that this is a professional product,” says Michael. “There will undoubtedly need to be more refinements in the future to cater to specific customer needs, but as it stands, it’s a workhorse at the parties and events we go to.” — Wired

No comments:

Post a Comment

"Be as smart as you can, but remember that it is always better to be wise than to be smart."

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...