The robots are here … to make you a drink

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At Tipsy Robot, robotic arms mix margaritas and mai tais for guests who order via tablet.
At Tipsy Robot, robotic arms mix margaritas and mai tais for guests who order via tablet.
Sarah Feldberg
Sarah Feldberg

Beyonce is singing about her love being put on top, while the bartender mixes a drink. A pour of liquor, a splash of juice, a cascade of ice and then, as Bey reaches her crescendo, a vigorous swirl of the shaker, the bartender's whole body twisting almost in time with the music.

Only it's not a body, and the bartender isn't a chatty type adept at reading whether the guest needs a beer, a bourbon or just a friendly ear. Rather, the figure mixing cocktails is a white robotic arm, one of two behind the bar at Tipsy Robot.

Created by local restaurateur Rino Armeni, the new attraction, which opened July 5 inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, employs a pair of Italian-made robots that tend bar for guests who order via tablet.

"I am a sci-fi guy: 'Battlestar Galactica,' 'Star Wars,'" Armeni said. When one of his partners saw a prototype of the robot online, the two traveled to Italy to talk with designers about adapting it to pour cocktails for tourists on the Strip.

"They're actually industrial robots, usually used to build cars," Armeni said. "We made them cuter, and they have a shaker."

The same robots are used on Royal Caribbean ships to make drinks for guests.

"The first reaction that people have had was, 'Are you going to replace bartenders?'" Armeni said. "Our robots, we want them to be an attraction like the Fountains of Bellagio, the sign on Las Vegas Boulevard. That's the intent, to create entertainment."

While the bots are the bar's undeniable star, Tipsy Robot also employs humans on the floor. "We call them Galactica Ambassadors. They were hired specifically to take care of people. The human factor is still very important to us," Armeni explained.

The "ambassadors" card drinkers and help them navigate the Tipsy Robot process, which starts with stepping up to a tablet to select a drink from the cocktail menu or create your own beverage  from the individual ingredients available. Swipe your credit card, and the robots swing into action, collecting spirits from the bottles suspended from the ceiling and mixers and ice from dispensers embedded in the wall. Your order appears on a screen with the time it will be ready and which conveyer will deliver it, and a QR code sent to your phone allows you to step up to the counter and receive your drink when it's complete.

While the 'bots can't provide witty banter with your paloma or mai tai, they do make a mean drink, Armeni said: "They're exactly the way they're supposed to be. These drinks are perfect."

Armeni stressed that Tipsy Robot is more of an attraction than a bar, and that he doesn't see 'bots replacing human bartenders or restaurant workers anytime soon. But the entrepreneur does see specific ways that the robotic arms might be put to use elsewhere in Las Vegas.

"I was in Italy in April. We actually worked on a concept of a robot restaurant," he said. "There are certain things in the kitchen they can do: pancakes, gelato, frittatas."

Maybe someday soon, you'll see robots scooping ice cream or serving pizza slices on the buffet line. Want a margarita with that? No problem.

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