Robot out to prove man no match for machine behind the bar

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 December, 2010, 12:00am

Out of ideas to impress your party guests? How about employing a robot bar tender to go around mixing their drinks?

American inventor Jamie Price and his wife Julie are visiting Hong Kong with his computerised mobile bar that mixes 20 to 30 different kinds of drinks at a time, and wheels around a party room making robot noises and blinking its neon lights.

They will be serving drinks at the New Year countdown party tonight at Elements shopping mall.

Price spent a year and a half building the robot, which comes with a drinks mixer holding six bottles, a revolving beer table and a motorised ice drawer all operated by remote control. The robot has over 5,000 drinks recipes in its repertoire.

The couple have travelled with the award-winning robot to nine cities around the world in the past two years. 'He's almost like our child,' said Julie Price. She recalled attending a rooftop party in New York where 'people were following him around and we found him coming back with lipstick prints on his roof'.

Their electronic friend was also a big hit at Halloween. 'We took him trick-or-treating around the neighbourhood and he got a lot of treats. The children loved him,' she said.

Price said he was inspired to build his bar-tender robot by a robot game show on television: 'I saw the robots and thought, I've got to build one.'

He started researching the idea on the internet and looking for material for his robot, which has a transparent dome-shaped bird feeder for its roof and wheels from an electronic wheelchair for the base. 'It was difficult to make it all up myself. I had no instruction sheets, and there were no wrong answers,' he said.

Halfway through the project, he had ideas about giving up: 'I didn't realise it would be such a large project when I started off. But I carried on since I had already done so much.'

Star Wars character R2-D2 served as his point of reference in design, and he named his creation BaR2D2.

The sales executive at a printing company worked on the robot at night and at weekends in the garage of his home in Nashville, Tennessee, his wife said.

Now he is eager to encourage others to try their hand at a bit of robot design. Price has uploaded more than 200 photographs to his website showing the different stages of BaR2D2's construction. He has also been teaching a class of 30 how to build robots.

Price suggests that those wanting to give it a try should start with smaller and simpler toy-like robots, 'then you can advance to more complicated ones and give them a personality'.