Friday, February 15, 2013

We've launched our new web site today and it includes a blog! Starting today, this blog will no longer be updated. You can find our new blog here:

We hope to see you on our shiny new site soon!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Wonderful World of Drink Bots

Ever since the first cocktail was poured people have been searching out ways to do it faster and with better accuracy. Millions of dollars are spent every year on the newest bartending gadget or gizmo. Then, when robot technology started to become more accessible people began tinkering with the idea of creating a robotic bartender. We’ve seen them in movies, but how close are we to actually having one at home to make us that perfect drink? Well, probably a lot closer than you think.

Party Robotics has been working hard for the last five years to bring a simple, fun robot that dispenses delicious cocktails into the mainstream marketplace. However, we’re not the only ones out there creating bartending robots. Let’s take a look at what else is available in the world of drink bots.

In the commercial world you really only have few options. One is the RoboBar, manufactured by MotoMan. With a pricetag of $160,000 this behemoth of a bot is not exactly feasible for home bar enthusiasts. RoboBar is serious about giving people the robot bartender experience and comes equipped with a lifesize robot; dressed in a tux and featuring a male or female personality. This bot is not designed to assist bartenders, but replace them, touting that it can “work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without breaks, vacations, holidays, or sick time (or hangovers).”

The Virtual Bartender
Another bot that is available to purchase right now is the Virtual Bartender from Digital Beverages. This is a bot for those with money to spend and the space to set it up. The Virtual Bartender weighs in at 350 pounds, is about the size of a large dishwasher and requires a drain, and hot/cold water line connections. Much like the RoboBar, The Virtual Bartender has a LCD touch screen and can deliver a wide range of drinks, boasting it can hold up to 32 different ingredients. Adding one of these bots to your home will set you back between $5,800 - 7,500.

The InebriatorNext we get into the world of diy bots which are not available for purchase at this time. The first is The Inebriator. You may have heard of this guy as he gathered up a bit of publicity on the interwebz back in September of last year. The Inebriator is an Aurdino powered cocktail machine created in the UK by Ian Cooper and Jake Osborne. The bot holds nine liquor bottles upside down on the upper level and stashes its mixers in a custom cooler down below. Any mixers need to be moved from their original bottles into plastic containers which have been plumbed with two pipes, one leading to a gas tank and the other to a valve. Drinks are ordered from a special controller box and a glass then moves under the bottles along a conveyer belt. The bot can dispense a drink in about 30 seconds, depending on how many ingredients it contains.

Another bot which is quite similar to The Inebriator is MELMACC. This cocktail dispensing machine was built by Oliver Höftberger, Robert Neuner, and Michael Mueller. The bot also utilizes the conveyer belt design, though does not have a gas tank or separate cooler box for mixers. Instead the mixers sit in their own special containers next to the alcohol. Drinks are also a bit slow to come from MELMACC, clocking in at about 40 seconds.

There are several other fun little speciality bots out there which make appearances at events such as Roboexotica and BarBot. There is Layerbot which uses peristaltic pumps to create layered shots, Robomoji that crafts mojitos, and SoBEaR, the breathalyzer/booze dispensing teddy bear.

As you can see there are lots of projects and attempts at delivering an amazing robot bartender to the masses. Our own creation, Bartendro, is going to be making its debut on Kickstarter soon and we’re hoping that it will meet all of your home bar needs. The newest models are lightweight and can easily be carried by one person, uses peristaltic pumps to give the most accurate drinks possible, delivers those drinks in less than 10 seconds, has an interactive user interface which can be run off your smartphone or tablet, is easy to clean, and most importantly makes delicious precision cocktails (or crazy custom juice creations). If you want to check it out in person we’re going to be at Robogames’ annual BarBot event in San Francisco on March 1st and 2nd. Come on down and let our bot get you drunk!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

ORD Camp drink report

A little over a week ago we were fortunate enough to attend ORD Camp in Chicago. Pierre and I spent the weeks leading up to ORD Camp working on the newest version of Bartendro. We literally finished putting all the pieces together in the hotel room in Chicago and once we arrived at ORD Camp. Up until we arrived at ORD Camp, the bot had never served a single drink!

Bartendro @ ORD Camp (photo by John Tolva)
What could've easily turned into a "demo nightmare" turned out to be a success! Aside from one minor hiccup at the start, Bartendro did an amazing job of pouring drinks all evening long.

The reactions Bartendro received were stunning! My favorite quote would have to be: "I've seen a lot of awesome, but this is the best thing EVAR. EVAR!"

It seems that everyone was pleased with our invention -- we ended up pouring 149 drinks that evening!

The model shown on the above is Bartendro 7: it has 7 pumps and can dispense 7 different types of liquids and serve 14 different drinks. At ORD Camp we loaded the bot with:
  1. Lime juice
  2. Cranberry juice
  3. Butterscotch schnapps
  4. Sour apple pucker
  5. Kahlua
  6. Bailey's
  7. Vodka
Bartendro gave us the following report at the end of the evening:

Total number of drinks: 149
Total volume of drinks: 18.032 Liters
drinknumbervolume (L)
Vodka cranberry253.12
Sour apple martini202.37
Buttery nipple151.53
Vodka gimlet151.858
Black russian111.47
Black unicorn81.049
Caramel apple60.69
Baby guinness50.63
Girl scout cookie40.51
Pure ecstasy20.24
Screaming orgasm10.12

I was especially pleased how well people adapted to it after their first drink. There were quite a few repeat customers who knew exactly what to do to get their drink. Two or three taps, hold the cup under the spout, press POUR wait a few seconds and they were off to rejoin whatever shenanigans that were underway. 

It was a great evening -- thanks to everyone who came and helped us test the latest incarnation of Bartendro. We're gearing up for a Kickstarter soon and if you're interested in getting your own bot or pumps to make your own bot, stay tuned on this blog or follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Open Hardware Proposition

The Maker movement has truly been amazing to watch unfold over the last decade. Democratized information and tools have enabled widespread innovation and collaboration, creating dozens of hackerspaces and businesses in the wake. We love this and we want to be a part of it.

The issue of intellectual property is a tricky one. The patent was originally intended to protect inventors from large companies. After an individual would spend large amounts of capital for the required initial research and manufacturing, a large company with more capital could came along and create the same thing cheaper or faster, bringing the original inventor to ruins. The patent gave the original inventor a buffer period to create their products and provided a sufficient incentive for the populous to continue to innovate. At least that was the humble goal.

Today, patent struggles between giant corporations have crippling effects with injunctions and overall costs reaching into the billions. Patents now rarely belong to individuals, but to companies with ever increasing portfolios that they arm to wage war with. Is this really how we want to proceed? I've heard rumors of patent reform always being just around the bend, but that will be a slow and laborious process most likely. So what do we do until then? Well, it turns out that the ingredients of ubiquitous information on the internet, thriving online social networks and a slumping job market provide the right mix of time and resources to allow people to collaborate and contribute to projects they like, like never before.

Open source software has been around for decades and is the foundation of a lot of everyday objects...i.e. anything running Linux. It's only recently that we've started seeing open source hardware companies too like Sparkfun and Adafruit. Making software open source is a no-brainer, the costs of creating and shuffling bits is negligible, and the potential for people to add meaningful contributions or the code to provide educational benefit is a net positive for everyone. Hardware on the other hand still requires the moving of atoms: welding, machining, pcb fabrication, assembly, inventory all consume considerable energy and capital. By putting the files "out there" a company risks having their products knocked-off and made cheaper and to lower quality standards. How does a company protect their investment in their IP then?

The models are becoming more clear. A transparent business, with a growing community are fundamental to operating successfully. Also, trademarks and copyrights become much more important. The notion of someone making the same thing but better, or cheaper should be encouraged; this is why we do open source in the first place. Others must just follow the guidelines set forth by the copyright owner. Attribution and share-alike are common ones, meaning the person building on your work needs to also share it and give you credit. The person copying can't use the same trademarked name, and therefore can't steal the brand you've worked to build up too. The brand and community go hand in hand, and this is what people come back for. The support of the community, and to support the original creators.

Is an open source company, more or less lucrative as a business decision? Hard to say for sure, and it depends on the products and industry, but they can definitely both be run successfully. An open source company is likely more fun to run, and engages others to be a part of the process. Customer feedback flows quickly and more directly and qualified contributors don't need to be co-located but could live on the other side of the planet. The pros certainly seem to outweigh the risks, but there are examples of it not always working out like with MakerBot Industries and their recent pulling out of open-source. Is it the right decision for you? Is it the right decision for Party Robotics? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Some more reading:

A good book on the topic, covering crowdfunding as well:
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kickstarter Rewards

So, we are starting to gear up for Kickstarter and have been pondering some reward options. So far we have stickers, t-shirts and etched glassware. What do you think? Are there better alternatives, or are these good rewards? We'll have at least a couple of different sizes of Bartendro on offer, but they will be in higher price brackets. Some rewards in the $50-$200 would be good. What would you like to see? Ideas welcomed in the comments.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Presenting Bartendro 2.5 : A Shiny New Case

Out with the old:

Bartendro's previous shell was made out of stainless steel. Its aesthetic resembled a commercial appliance of yesteryear with its art deco design; shiny, brazen and robust. Many things had been taken into consideration, like the ease of setup, use and maintenance; modularity was incorporated from the outset. However, as we stood back and watched our humble machine get shoved, spilled on and endured all sorts of operational hiccups, our inner engineers knew we'd have to make some improvements.

                                     In with the new:

The first thing you'll notice is that the bottles no longer sit on-top in an inverted fashion. That design concept was with us from the beginning because we thought it was the most intuitive. The approach seemed the simplest; just let gravity do all of the work. While cool looking, it was fraught with technical challenges. 1) Flow needs to be measured since gravity will cause pours to be inaccurate due to varying liquid levels. 2) With standard bottles being inverted, air flow back into the bottle is very important to not cause vacuum. 3) The inverted bottles, even with quick disconnects, are not fast to change and are always messy when removed, and are not stable when inebriated people are hovering around and poking at the machine.

Secondly, the front is all clear so you can see the guts of the machine. When the bot was enclosed, people would need to walk behind the machine to see what was going on. This just meant that the machine had to sit on an island, which wasn't the end of the world, but it's nice to be able to access everything from the front so that the machine can easily be placed against a wall, taking less space. The new enclosure also reduces noise since the volume with the pumps is encapsulated.

Other improvements include, clean tablet mounting so that it's not in the way and won't get splashed on. Adjustable drip tray which allows the glass to be as close to the spout as possible to reduce splashing. Thinner aluminum and acrylic housing to drastically reduce weight. And, the machine can be disassembled into two major parts for ease of transport.

At our inaugural party of the new design, we beat our record by dispensing 287 drinks, or 25.8 liters of cocktails in an approximately 5 hour period.

Total Drinks Served by Bartendro so far:
OVER 1000!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tales of the Cocktail 2012

After embarking on a 5 day journey to the beautiful city of NOLA, we have a new found respect for bartenders and the enjoyment of cocktails. This city is magical and exudes the vibe of good times.

We showed up to the Big Easy on 8/26 and as I was walking into my hotel room, I said hello to the two girls that were standing in front of the room next to mine. About 20 seconds later I heard a knock on my door, "Hey neighbor!" it was the girls with an offering of two bottles of imported wine and a wine corker, they handed it to me and said "Here keep this, welcome!" This surely set the pace for the rest of the trip. The handouts of booze, on the street seemingly to anyone that wanted them were surreal. We were handed rum and other concoctions by brand ambassadors looking to get the word out about their particular products.

As the days wore on, we learned about the format, the tasting rooms, the complimentary events, and the seminars. Our goal was simple, show a Bartendro video to as many people and see their reactions. From what we gathered, the mix of people felt like 50% bartenders, 25% brand ambassadors, distributors and other industry people, and 25% cocktail enthusiasts. Not quite what we were expecting, but it made sense after we learned that you could have bottomless cocktails for 5 days for a $45 seminar fee. We met a lot of interesting people, many of which were very opposed to the idea of Bartendro. We explained that our creation was a tool for the bartenders to help hone their craft, not to act as competition, but their answers were consistent. "That's cool, but not in my bar." Other business types were more interested, which gave us hope.

We attended the "Ins and outs of cocktails on tap" seminar. It was interesting to see how much controversy circled around using 100 year old beer kegging technology. People struggled with the issues of customer perception, keg shaking, line lengths and sanitation among others. It was eye opening. It was not the level of tech we were expecting from a cocktails on tap seminars, and astonishingly people were still very weary of such a minorly new concept.

Overall, New Orleans captivated us. The food was amazing everywhere, the people super friendly, and the cocktails second to none, even (especially) the free ones. Hopefully we will be back with more involvement, maybe as presenters, or even as sponsors. Thanks to the people that put this event on and the excitement about awesome cocktails in a warm and full of character city. Cheers!