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A Cafe in Hanoi Is Replacing Its Waitstaff With a Robot

Are you sick of human interaction? This café in Hanoi might have just the solution to your blight.

Robo Cafe, a coffee shop in Hanoi is luring throngs of curious patrons thanks to its newest staff member: a homemade robot named Mortar.

Nguyen Quoc Phi, Mortar’s creator, told Zing that the inspiration for the robot came from a trip to Japan where Phi had a chance to visit the East Asian country’s restaurants that feature robots as waiters.

“I invested a lot in one go, but the [boost in] efficiency is high as it can replace a few human employees,” Phi told the online news source in Vietnamese. “I’m also very keen on including robots in daily life, so I didn't hesitate when investing. This is also a novelty so I hope customers will be curious to visit the café.”

Phi and his robot employee. Photo via Zing.

Thus, Phi and Do Trung Thanh, an electrical engineer, decided to try their hand at robotics to create their own café’s automatic waiter. Mortar is 130 centimeters tall and weighs 20 kilograms. It can work for 15 hours before needing to be recharged.

Phi created Mortar’s plastic shell using 3D-printing techniques. Its face is a touch-screen with pre-programmed paths to the shop’s tables. Its feet are equipped with a metal detector that recognizes strips of aluminum on the floor, according to Zing. Once a table is selected, the robot will deliver orders to customers by following the metallic markings.

Video via Zing.

Mortar is also capable of avoiding obstacles thanks to two holes with sensors at the back. If someone is in its way, Mortar will politely ask them to “please make way.”

The duo shared that their immediate plan is to continue to improve Mortar’s movements – which can be shaky at times – before looking into expanding their team of robotic employees further.

The cafe has also adopted a futuristic theme. Photo via Zing.

Mortar's battery can last for 15 hours before needing a six-hour period of charging. Photo via Zing.

Its face is a touch-screen with paths to tables. Photo via Zing.

The sensors on Mortar's back. Photo via Zing.

Customers still have to take their drinks from the tray manually. Photo via Zing.

The robot can also say simple phrases in Vietnamese and Japanese. Photo via Zing.

Mortar delivers orders by following the metallic markings on the floor. Photo via Zing.

[Top photo via Dan Viet]

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