This Robot Cat Waiter Delivers Your Food and Gets Fussy if You Pet it Too Long
Yes, it accepts scratches as gratuity.
The 53rd Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is currently taking place in Las Vegas and, as expected, there are some bonkers products on display. So far, Charmin has revealed a Bluetooth-enabled robot that exists purely to deliver a roll of toilet paper to someone who's stranded and Charmin-less in their bathroom. Kohler responded to what absolutely no one asked for by putting an Alexa-enabled Bluetooth speaker inside one of its showerheads. And Chinese robotics company PuduTech revealed a robot waiter that looks like a cat—and it acts very much like a cat too.
PuduTech, whose Twitter bio-slash-mission statement is "To liberate the attendants from laborious work, and let the #robots do the job," already had a robot waiter called PuduBot, but its newly revealed BellaBot matches its predecessor's capabilities and also has a digital cat face that is displayed on a built-in screen. (PuduBot can also flash its own smiley face, but it's not a cat face, so…)
According to PuduTech, BellaBot also has an "advanced tactile feedback system." So after the robo-cat delivers a meal, customers are encouraged to scratch it on its head and pointy little ears. BellaBot will respond with a satisfied looking facial expression if someone pets it for what it deems an appropriate amount of time, and it has been programmed to speak the words "The owner's hand is so warm," which isn't creepy at all. If the person touches it for too long, though, its expression hardens and it "gets mad to remind you not to interrupt its job." Just like a real cat!
Other than the "warm hand" thing and its pre-programmed hostility, BellaBot also has four stacked shelves where meal trays can be placed, customizable delivery functions, and a navigation system that will allow it to safely maneuver around restaurant customers, tables and chairs, and its human coworkers.
At CES, PuduTech is also showcasing two other service-industry robots, including its faceless PuduBot and HolaBot, which has been designed to return dishes from the dining area to the kitchen. HolaBot can carry a total of 60 kilograms (132 pounds) worth of tableware on its built-in three-layer trays, and PuduTech says that adds up to 120 small plates, 39 large plates, and 33 bowls in one trip.
The company says that PuduBot is already in use in more than 2,000 restaurants, and BellaBot and HolaBot will be available later this spring. Food & Wine has reached out to PuduTech for comment.