We're used to science influencing science fiction, but in the case of this bartender, things went the other way around.
Cocktail Robot
Credit: Factorylux

The BBC’s Doctor Who has become one of the most recognized and influential sci-fi series and figures in pop culture. With adventures spanning across decades (and thus generations), the man known for his love of tea and time-traveling spaceship the TARDIS has generated an almost unparalleled fanbase across the world, if not the known universe. Now, a U.K. company is proving that the Doctor’s reach goes far beyond inspiring t-shirts, cosplays, and kitchen gadgets. He—and one of the women who helped bring him to life—are behind the future of cocktail making.

As part of a collaboration between U.K. manufacturer of architectural and design lighting Factorylux and ST Robotics, one of the first manufacturers of bench-top robotic arms, the galaxy’s most famous Time Lord creatively fueled an industrial cocktail mixing robot. Debuting during this year’s London Design Festival, the new sound and light installation called ‘Cocktails & Robots’ was a human/robot encounter that relied on the electronic arrangements of English musician and composer Delia Derbyshire. Best known for her pioneering work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, in the early 1960s Derbyshire was responsible for creating the title sequence music for Doctor Who, which offered one of TV’s first theme tunes entirely by way of electronic equipment. Factorylux’s ST Robotics Cocktail Robot, inspired by the work of the iconic composer, used nothing but audio frequencies to operate during the company’s festival event.

“We’re a small and new lighting design manufacturer who was looking to disrupt a saturated market,” Factorylux Co-Founder Stanley Wilson said. “We had been throwing small parties for designers and we found the most cost-effective, the most standout and successful strategy was to serve cocktails. We encountered ST Robotics, whose unique approach of affordability, allowed a small company like us to successfully implement our first robotic project.”

While perhaps not as culturally influential as the work of Derbyshire, Factorylux is a trailblazer in its own right. Pioneers of the industrial lighting aesthetic, Factorylux has illuminated everything from London cafe bar and bike workshop “Look Mom No Hands” and Bert & May’s charming and quaint prefabricated living spaces to The National Theater’s Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Frankenstein and 2011’s historical adventure drama Hugo.

The lighting manufacturer credits the success of its ‘Cocktail and Robots’ display to the work of ST Robotics, who has been creating and providing boxed robots for nearly 30 years. It seems part of that credit, and the future of mixed drinks, also belongs to some rather timeless figures in science fiction.