Not content with working as sales assistants and burger flippers, robots are landing jobs on cruise ships as bartenders and entertainers. Leading the way is Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, currently on its maiden voyage from Southampton to Bayonne, New Jersey.
With its RFID passenger bracelets, virtual concierge, and “virtual balcony” staterooms where flat screens take the place of portholes, the Quantum is already a high-tech vessel with an emphasis on connectivity that extends to the ship’s Bionic Bar and Two70 multimedia theater. In the former, instead of a human cocktail jockey, there are a pair of robotic arms capable of mixing two drinks per minute or 1,000 per day, while the latter is host to a troupe of robotic performers.
More similar to the Joint Action in Multimodal Embodied Systems (James) robot than the Inebriator or Monsieur, the Quantum’s robotic bartenders were created by Makr Shakr and represent 41,600 man hours of work. They made their debut at Google I/O in 2013, and Royal Caribbean says that they are more than just an over-elaborate drinks dispenser.
Working in concert and using special attachments, the robotic arms use moves based on motion capture of the gestures of Roberto Bolle, etoile dancer at the La Scala opera house in Milan and Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theater. They can muddle, stir, shake, and strain, and are preloaded with 30 spirits and 21 mixers, as well as a selection of garnishes.
The other robot team on the Quantum is in the Two70 multimedia theater, which can seat 540 people on multiple levels. It’s name is derived from the 270-degree floor-to-ceiling glass walls that rise to the height of three decks and, when activated, turn into a VistaVision wraparound screen. The centerpiece of the performance is a set of retractable robotic arms with flat screens instead of manipulators that move about in a choreographed act along with performers and the VistaVision display. According to Royal Caribbean, this is most complex robotics project in the world.