: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comSAN FRANCISCO -- Aficionados of alcohol and androids alike celebrated the first stateside gathering of cocktail-serving robots this weekend at Roboexotica.
Patrons delighted in drink-making droids that ranged from a fire-spewing drink warmer, a fully automated mind-reading mixologist and a shot-pouring conveyor belt built entirely from Legos.
"You have liquor, fire and robots," said Johannes Grentfurthner, Roboexotica organizer and member of art collective monochrom in Austria. "How could we go wrong?"
The annual gathering of booze-pouring robots is usually held in Vienna, Austria. To celebrate its approaching 10-year anniversary, organizers threw a San Francisco satellite event.
Though the U.S. event was slightly smaller than its Viennese counterpart, the barbots landed with a booze-fueled bang.
Artists, engineers and automatons gathered in downtown San Francisco on Saturday night for a high-tech brand of mixology. Crafted for fun as much as function, barbots kept serving at the booze-fueled bash as long as partygoers could ask for another: Roboexotica's bartenders don't have a clock-out time.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comRobogames founder David Calkins eyes his homespun creation, a bartending bot named Chapek as he whips up a martini. Designed to prepare and serve four different cocktails, Chapek is equally famous for delivering cheeky one-liners and having a drinking problem. During one demonstration, instead of serving a bar patron a freshly mixed cocktail, Chapek malfunctioned and downed it himself. "He's a greedy *******," Calkins said.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comFor partygoers who've overindulged, the Breathalyzer Genie was on hand to dole out handy advice like "Switch to fancy water," and "Did you bring your skates?" Kinetic artist Chris Palmer let us in on a little secret: The bot is a Breathalyzer in name only. "It doesn't actually measure blood-alcohol count," he revealed. Tipsy patrons rest their drink in the genie's hand, blow into the machine's nose, triggering the machine to dispense a fortune. Palmer elected to forgo practicality in favor of fun: "There were too many sanitation issues," he said.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comOnce you have your drink in hand, it's time to make a toast. That's where Daniel Fabry's "cheersing" machine comes it. Fabry, a monochrom member and media teacher in Austria, spliced together 20 clips of actors toasting from well-known films like The Shining and Once Upon a Time in America. The computer is outfitted with a special theremin, so as guests lift their glass toward the screen, the activity sets the looped footage in motion, and the actors onscreen lift their glasses.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comSimon Davalos brought El Espanol Borracho to serve Spanish coffee, a potent mixture of Kahlua, coffee and high-proof alcohol like Bacardi 151 Proof Rum. After pumping the liquors into a mug, the machine ignites a high-pressure stream of fuel, engulfing the cup in fire for several seconds. "It packs a bit of a punch," Davalos said as the contraption blazed a steady stream of fire. Her contraption warmed the cocktail before serving.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comBay Area-based videogame designer Anthony Fudd displays his Shot Bot, a fully automated system that serves shots of sake and vodka. Select your spirit and the machine pumps out the liquor into a Dixie cup before sending it down a conveyor belt. Made entirely from Legos and operated using the geeky toy company's Mindstorm software, the Shot Bot can also sling any two-ingredient drink. Though Fudd was having problems getting the conveyor belt to function properly, the crowd didn't seem to mind: The automated shot-pouring feature worked without a hitch.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comNot all of the bots at Roboexotica serve booze -- some, like the Alcotron, just facilitate the drinking process. A modified version of Russian roulette, partygoers pick a color to bet on, and set the electronic wheel in motion. Depending on where the spinner lands, patrons either get their drinks free, half-priced or at an inflated rate.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comCan't decide what you'd like to drink? The Mind-Reading Martini Maker will do the work for you. The neurofeedback machine collects EEG brain scans and mixes drinks based on the output. The more Alpha brainwaves the machine reads, the drier the martini. And the drinks are neither shaken nor stirred: The contraption filters gin through a sieve of ice to cool the booze. Roboexotica organizer and Shifz member Magnus Wurzer operates the setup while Melissa Steele sits in as a test subject.
: Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.comChassis, an automated keg on wheels, zoomed around the show, serving thirsty patrons beer throughout the night. Controlled by a wireless remote, Chassis also cracked jokes, insulted and flirted with guests -- thanks to a mic setup. Monochron member Daniel Fabry gets a fresh refill of Sierra Nevada from Chassis, as the bot's sculptor, Al Honig, looks on.
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