One day soon, when the robots finally take over and enslave us all, we’ll wonder where it all went wrong. Should we have seen the signs? Replacing human bartenders with AI-powered automatons seems a likely start. British Airways is tempting fate anyway by trialing “robot” bartenders at two major U.S. airports.
We’ve all had that moment of impatient rage after standing for more than 60 seconds at the bar without service. You mutter to yourself and anyone within earshot, “Who do I have to murder to get a drink around here?” British Airways just announced a possible end to those moments with a new, highly efficient “robot” bartender at two airport lounges. It’s not a robot in the traditional, apocalyptic-Skynet-killing-machine sense, but rather a sophisticated automated device capable of dispensing 30 specific cocktails. Anything more complicated will still require a living human.
The program was designed by Barsys, an innovator in smart bar technology for the home. Customers can order a drink through the British Airways app, place a cocktail glass on the system’s conveyer belt, and let the robot work its magic. British Airways is even debuting two locally inspired cocktails — dubbed Echo-Whisky-Romeo and Silicon Galley — as a nod to the program’s two trial locations in Newark and San Francisco.
There’s something to be said for ruthless mixological efficiency. Indeed, the Barsys system can dispense a precisely measured cocktail in just 45 seconds. That’s a welcome promise for air travelers on a tight schedule. But, most airport lounge customers choose to skip a grab-and-go beer at Chili’s because they have a little extra time on their hands. They’re unlikely to be concerned with making a 20-minute connection. For those passengers — and for us here at The Manual — we don’t mind waiting an extra minute or two for a human-poured cocktail with a side of legit human interaction.
Thankfully, Barsys CEO and founder, Akshet Tewari, assures us that lounge bartenders aren’t going away any time soon. The system is simply designed to “free them up to make more complicated drinks and interact with customers.”
The Barsys AI-powered bartender is part of a massive, multi-billion-dollar plan for British Airways to improve the passenger experience over the next five years. The airline is trialing Barsys for First and Club World passengers only at Newark and San Franciso International until March 2020.