VK-01 Is A Bartender You Don’t Need To Tip

[Donald Bell’s] robotic bartender entry into the 2020 Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge is one of those things that sounds easy until you start getting into the details. After all, how hard is it to dispense some liquids into a glass? Harder than you might think. Sure there are pumps — [Donald] uses peristaltic pumps — but there’s also two Raspberry Pis, an ESP8622, and at least one more microcontroller lurking underneath. You can see a video about the device below.

Even if you don’t want a refreshing libation, you’ll probably like the VK-01’s Bladerunner cyberpunk styling. What we really enjoyed about the post was that it took you through the concept sketches, some of the design trades, and even a cardboard prototype.

There are some interesting thoughts about the psychology of a robot bartender, too. Apparently, people don’t find it satisfying to push a button and have a drink silently pour out like a hospital coffee machine.

There’s also an RFID card that [Donald] had ambitious plans for, but for now, it just detects that the user scanned a card. The software is something called Hello Drinkbot, so the custom software doesn’t have to do that part.

On the hardware side, there were a few clever tricks. For example, since the pumps only run forward — you never suck liquor back up from a glass — the machine gets double duty out of a motor driver meant to drive four motors bidirectionally.

Definitely not the first robot mixologist we’ve seen. If you don’t want to serve drinks to replicants, maybe you need one of these.

15 thoughts on “VK-01 Is A Bartender You Don’t Need To Tip

  1. Real drinkers know that you tip your bartender well, with the first drink. That ensures prompt and enthusiastic service and generous pours all night. Bartenders gotta eat, people!

  2. In the late 70s, I worked for a company called Vendo, when it was still head-quartered in Kansas City, MO, as my first EE job out of school. I heard all kinds of stories about prior R&D work. One especially interesting one was one from early 70s Las Vegas as the location for Vendo’s field test of an in-room liquor dispenser (for those tiny bottles) that used a magnetic strip card reader/writer much in the same way as RFIDs are used now. There was no chip on-board, just a simple 80 bit field in the mag strip with an ID number and running balance. These were essentially “debit” cards since you had to buy them up-front. While the company had the ability to make mixed drinks like their soda and coffee/tea/cocoa dispensers, that wasn’t “in the cards” at the time. I was told that Vendo was quickly drummed out of town my the mob for not being given a cut of “their” business.

  3. I did all the tech for the TikiTron DrinkBot on which Hello Drinkbot was based. I can help with the RFID – the library I used needed some mods to work. I also have some calibration code for those pumps – once calibrated, our pumps have dispensed consistently for the last 4 years now!

    I’m currently upgrading the Tea Engine and Scone Baker I built into my salvaged Tesla Model 3 – Peppermint won 3rd place in the DNA Lounge Cocktail Robotics contest last year! I’m making it far more automated.

  4. “All you need to build a cocktail machine is a way to automatically move fluid from one location (…) into another”

    That’d be a mixing apparatus and while that is part of what you’d need, this machine, like the others I’ve seen so far, can neither shake nor stir. So it’s still not quite a cocktail machine in my book (“Cocktail Pedantry for Hipsters”).

    1. If the ingredients are dispensed simultaneously, and slowly, like this machine – is shaking/stirring really necessary? When a human bartender pours 1 or maybe 2 ingredients at time, and pours them quickly – thats when you need to shake/stir to avoid layering of the ingredients. I feel like with this machine by the time the dispensing is complete, the ingredients are probably pretty well mixed. But thats just a thought based on no data or experience with the bot…

  5. I worked for NCR in the 80’s and 90’s and had to service the NCR Electro-Bar ( we nicknamed it the Booz-A-Matic) . It was based on the NCR Class 5 register (motor driven mechanical cash register) which was connected to a controller box that was based on RTL technology. The controller box was linked to a bottle rack of different boozes that were pressurized by a compressor. The bartender would insert the guest’s tab check into the printer and press a key on the keyboard for the drink ordered. He would then press a glass under the pour head which would dispense the proper amount of each component of the drink. This prevented over pouring. At the end of the night the register could print a total of each drink sold as well as a “chit” which the bartender would tape to each bottle showing the number of shots poured. He also marked a line across the chit showing the level of the booze in each bottle preventing employee drink theft after hours. Here was a mechanical cash register mixing drinks and keeping inventory back in the 70’s and 80’s !

  6. Let me know when it gets to the sophistication of Arthur the bartender in the Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence movie Passengers. I definitely want one. 🍺🍹🥂🍷🍻

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