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Artificial intelligence

No artificial intelligence: Chinese restaurants’ robots prove very dumb waiters

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 3:28pm

Employing artificial intelligent robots in Chinese restaurants – an idea that attracted national headlines – has not proved such a smart idea after all, mainland media reports.

The robots were virtually not intelligent at all
Employee at Chopsticks Passion restaurant

A number of restaurant owners have chosen to fire about 10 robots because they were just not clever or sophisticated enough to do their jobs properly, the Xiamen Daily reported.

The plug has been pulled on a number of the robots – employed as chefs and waiters – only a few years after a catering business in the seaport city of Xiamen, in southern Fujian province, scrambled to employ them instead of people, the newspaper said on Tuesday.

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Another restaurant, which opened last October, made local headlines for using four automated waiters that were able to take orders and deliver food to customers’ tables.

Now only two of them remain, to greet customers as they arrive, with the other two apparently canned.

“The robots were virtually not intelligent at all,” an employee at the restaurant called Chopsticks Passion told the newspaper. “They were merely standing there to look fancy.”

Another robot-themed restaurant closed down less than six months after its opening.

Past diners had complained that dishes prepared by the robot chefs in the kitchen were “unpalatable”.

“The food was not tasty at all and the whole restaurant was very smoky because of the poor cooking skills of the robot chefs,” one former diner, identified by her surname Zhao, told the newspaper.

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Another robot chef, employed in the kitchen of a canteen serving students at a local college, has also been replaced.

The boss of the canteen said the robot was no longer in use because it was “not multifunctional”.

For a restaurant to employ a robot worker it must pay about 50,000 yuan (HK$60,000) for each robot and then several hundred yuan each month for its upkeep, including repairs, plus electricity.

However, that outlay is still a big saving for a company, compared with the long-term cost of paying staff, employees told the newspaper.

Yet so far the low-cost robot automated waiters and cooks had proved they were not up to the job of working as restaurant waiters and chefs as they were not sufficiently intelligent enough to carry out their assigned tasks competently, Zhang Ji, of the robot manufacturer Yingqu Technology, said.

“Human beings can react to their environment effectively, but these robots are not able to do so,” Sun Qimin, chairman of Siert, another robot maker, told the Xiamen Daily.